Mill Hill History

The Medical Research Council was established in 1913 as the Medical Research Committee and one of its first decisions was to establish a central institute in London. In 1914, the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) was founded.


Premises at Hampstead were acquired but the outbreak of war in 1914 postponed occupation of the building, although senior staff were appointed and began work. The Hampstead premises, at Mount Vernon Hospital, were occupied in 1920, and the institute subsequently moved to its current location at Mill Hill in 1950.

The building at Mill Hill was designed by Maxwell Ayrton, also the architect of nearby Wembley Stadium, and construction began in 1937. When war broke out in 1939 the uncompleted building was handed over to the Women's Royal Naval Service. After the war it was handed back to the scientists in the autumn of 1949. Sir Henry Dale, the first Director of NIMR, retired in 1942 and so was never Director on the Mill Hill site.

Official opening

The official opening ceremony took place on the 5th of May 1950, when their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited Mill Hill. This occasion was the culmination of the efforts of many people, including Sir Henry Dale, who was involved in the planning stages of the new institute.

Scientific achievements

In the 65 years which have elapsed since that grand opening, scientists at NIMR have made major and seminal contributions in biomedical science fulfilling the expectations of the second Director, Sir Charles Harington, (expressed in a Linacre Lecture in Cambridge in 1958) that as the body of scientific knowledge increased, so the necessity for team working and cross-disciplinary interactions, facilitated as they are by a multidisciplinary Institute, would increase.

The success and scientific achievements of the institute have continued to the present, leveraged by the collaborative, multidisciplinary nature of research at the institute.

Members of the Mill Hill laboratories, including five Nobel Laureates, have contributed notably to many fields of biomedical science.

NIMR became part of the Crick in April 2015.

  • Find out more about the history of the Medical Research Council's National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) at