NIH in History

History Mystery

The Office of NIH History ( came across a box with these instruments in it recently and is trying to determine whether they have anything to do with a project that former NIH scientist Roderic E. Steele was developing in the 1980s. Steele was in the Laboratory of Technical Development in the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) from 1975 to 1988. He had received his Ph.D. from Stanford University (Stanford, Calif.) and done work in the Radiology Department there with Robert Kallman. At NIH, he worked closely with Joseph S. Handler in NHLBI’s Laboratory of Kidney and Electrolyte Metabolism. The box also contained letters, dated 1983 to 1984, between Steele and Becton Dickinson representatives about a porous membrane for cell-culture experiments. It is unclear whether these instruments are those mentioned in the letters or whether the project ever came to fruition. If you can shed any light on this mystery, please contact the NIH Catalyst at or 301-402-1449.

Photos by Michele Lyons, Office of NIH History

box and equipment on table

meter-type device

equipment taped to cardboard

The Office NIH History exists to advance the historical understanding of biomedical research within the NIH and throughout the world. By preserving records of significant NIH achievements, producing innovative exhibits and educational programs, and training researchers from multiple disciplines, the Office of NIH History explores the past to enhance present understanding of the health sciences and the NIH. For more information, visit