NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Past Informs the Future

New NIH History Lecture Series Begins

Dr. Allen Spiegel
Dr. Allen Spiegel

The Office of NIH History and Stetten Museum recently announced its new biomedical history lecture series, with 3 exciting talks over the next 3 months. What lessons can be learned through examination of past failures and successes? Tune into these thought-provoking lectures.

Former NIDDK director Dr. Allen Spiegel kicks off the series with a talk titled “A Brief History of Eugenics in America: Implications for Medicine in the 21st Century” on Thursday, Apr. 22 from noon to 1 p.m. ET at

Spiegel is a professor of medicine and molecular pharmacology and former dean of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. For his talk, he will review the eugenics movement in early 20th century America, which was based on a limited understanding of human heredity and culminated in a nationwide program of forced sterilization of those deemed unfit to reproduce. He then will discuss the thorny questions raised by striking advances in biomedicine in the 21st century, such as in vitro fertilization, preimplantation genetic diagnosis, non-invasive prenatal fetal screening, genome editing and reproductive cloning.

Dr. Robert Lefkowitz stands with fingertips pressed together, wearing white lab coat
Dr. Robert Lefkowitz

The next speaker in the series will be Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, the James B. Duke professor of medicine and professor of biochemistry and chemistry at Duke University Medical Center and co-winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Lefkowitz will discuss his career as an “accidental scientist” and the transformational training he received from 1968 to 1969 in the NIH Associates Training Program, performed to fulfill his Vietnam War draft obligation. His talk will be at noon on Thursday, May 27.

Dr. Sarah Leavitt wearing a hard hat stands on a construction site.
Dr. Sarah Leavitt

Then, next up is Dr. Sarah Leavitt, a historian previously with the National Building Museum, where she curated an exhibit called “Architecture of an Asylum: St Elizabeths, 1855–2017.”  

Leavitt will provide a history of St. Elizabeths, the first federally operated psychiatric hospital in the United States, established in 1855 as the Government Hospital for the Insane.  Her talk will be at noon on Thursday, June 24.

The NIH Record

The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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Staff Writer: Amber Snyder (link sends e-mail)