Health and Human Services

Rockefeller University

Founded in 1901 as the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, Rockefeller University (RU) is one of the earliest institutions established by Rockefeller family philanthropy. Until World War II, its path-breaking research on diseases was almost entirely supported by income from the endowment given by the family. It was the first biomedical research facility in the United States. RU scientists have studied public health problems and major infectious diseases such as yellow fever, pneumonia, syphilis, and diphtheria. Major breakthroughs have included vaccines, vaccine delivery methods, and increased understanding of viruses, DNA, and autoimmune disorders. In 1954, with new support from other sources including the federal government, the institute became a university, awarding its first Ph.D. degrees in 1959. In 1978, the Fund made a $15 million capital grant to RU to help assure its ultimate independence from Rockefeller family support. At the same time, it set aside an additional $10 million reserve to encourage joint activities amongst RU, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. Twenty-four Nobel prizes have been awarded to RU scientists since 1901. The university has been a special interest of founding RBF trustee David Rockefeller, who served as chairman of its board for over 25 years.

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Browse the major events in the Rockefeller Brothers Fund's history