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Vol. LVII, No. 10
May 20, 2005

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NIH Grant to 'Rocket Boys' Pays Dividends

In 1957, a 9-year-old named Terence Boylan sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health asking for a grant of $10 to build a rocket ship. The unusual request made its way to the outside experts who served on the NIH national health advisory council. Though they could not recommend government funding, they decided to make personal investments in the future, passing the hat to send Terence the money he needed for his research.

Many years later, after finding and interviewing Boylan, the Center for Scientific Review has brought his story to life: "Shining Lady in the Sky: How the Rocket Boys of Buffalo Were Launched by a Government Administrator and Committee at the National Institutes of Health" is viewable online at

"The story says a lot about the drive and dedication of researchers — both young and old," says Don Luckett, CSR communications director and author of the story. "Research rarely advances without the dogged passion and imagination of individuals who want to do something no one has done before."

The story also says a lot about the unsung heroes who have helped NIH advance medical research through the years, including reviewers and staff who have served with little fanfare. Among these individuals is the late Dr. Ernest Allen, one of the forefathers of the NIH grants program, who took the time to help the Rocket Boys of Buffalo. Though it was a small gesture, the little "grant" to Boylan continues to pay off in unexpected ways like many of the official grants NIH has awarded over the years.