Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government


NIA was formally established in 1974 but has much earlier origins. This timeline features information about major milestones in NIA’s history. For a more comprehensive history, view NIA in the NIH Almanac.

Browse our history by timeframes: 
2020s | 2010s | 2000s | 1990s | 1980s | 1970s | Earlier Origins

Learn about NIA’s funded and conducted high-impact scientific advances in aging and dementia research.

New CARD Building
Roy Blunt Center for
Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias 




Dr. Richard J. Hodes - Director of the NIA
Dr. Richard J. Hodes - Director of the NIA


Florence Mahoney - Advocate for NIA Founding
Florence Mahoney - Advocate for NIA Founding



  • 1976: Dr. Robert N. Butler is appointed as the first NIA director.

  • 1975:The Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, which launched in 1958, moves from NIH’s National Heart Institute to NIA.

  • 1975: NIA holds the first meeting of the National Advisory Council on Aging (NACA).

  • 1974: Congress passes Public Law (PL) 93-296 authorizing the establishment of a National Institute on Aging on May 31, 1974, and NIA is officially established on Oct. 7, 1974.

Gerontology Research Center
Gerontology Research Center

Earlier Origins

  • 1971: The White House Conference on Aging once again recommends the creation of a separate National Institute on Aging.

  • 1968: The Division of General Medical Sciences has responsibility for research grant projects in aging. Aging-related research is conducted and supported throughout NIH.

  • 1968: Construction of the Gerontology Research Center in Baltimore is completed.

  • 1967: The Gerontology Research Center in Baltimore, long a part of the National Heart Institute, is transferred to NICHD.

  • 1965: The Older Americans Act establishes the Administration on Aging as “the Federal focal point for activities in aging.”

  • 1963: The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is established to focus on health issues across the life course, including in old age. President John F. Kennedy remarks, “For the first time, we will have an Institute to promote studies directed at the entire life process rather than toward specific diseases or illnesses.”

  • 1962: The Gerontology Research Center Nathan Shock Laboratory facility is donated to NIH by the City of Baltimore (deed dated 12/6/62; recorded 2/1/63).

  • 1961: The first White House Conference on Aging recommends the creation of an Aging Institute. Its report reads, in part, “a National Institute of Gerontology should be set up within the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on aging; Federal financial support should be increased for biomedical research in governmental agencies, universities, hospitals, research centers and for building necessary facilities; human population laboratories should be established to study problems associated with aging.”

  • 1959: A Section on Aging, headed by James E. Birren, is established within NIMH.

  • 1959: Aging research conducted through NIH intramural programs (Gerontology Branch of the National Heart Institute and NIMH Section on Aging).

  • 1959: Almost 600 research and training grants on aging are underway through the Center for Aging Research, “the focal point for information on the NIH activities in gerontology.”

  • 1958: Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging is established.

  • 1956: Federal Council on Aging is convened.

  • 1956: The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare has a Special Staff on Aging; the Center for Aging Research, which exists within the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

  • 1951: In his Trends in Gerontology, Dr. Shock outlines his recommendations for an Institute of Gerontology.

  • 1950: President Harry S. Truman convenes the First National Conference on Aging.

  • 1948: The Gerontology Branch is moved to the National Heart Institute.

  • 1941: The Unit on Aging (eventually, later the Gerontology Branch) moves to Baltimore City Hospital under the direction of Nathan Shock.

  • 1941: Surgeon General Thomas Parran forms the National Advisory Committee on Gerontology.

  • 1940: A Unit on Aging, headed by Edward J. Stieglitz, is established in the NIH Division of Chemotherapy.

  • 1930: Congress changes the name of the Hygienic Laboratory to the National Institute of Health.

  • 1887: A federal research laboratory, known as the Laboratory of Hygiene, is established at the Marine Hospital, Staten Island, N.Y., in August, for research on cholera and other infectious diseases. It will be renamed the Hygienic Laboratory in 1891.


An official website of the National Institutes of Health