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Rolla Eugene Dyer
6th Director of the National Institutes of Health
In office
February 1, 1942 – September 30, 1950
Preceded byLewis R. Thompson
Succeeded byWilliam H. Sebrell, Jr
Personal details
Born(1886-11-04)November 4, 1886
Delaware County, Ohio
DiedJune 7, 1971(1971-06-07) (aged 84)
Atlanta, Georgia
Alma mater
Scientific career
FieldsInfectious disease research

Rolla Eugene Dyer (November 4, 1886 – June 3, 1971) was an American physician born in Delaware County, Ohio. Dyer received his B.A. in 1907 from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and his M.D. in 1914 from the University of Texas.[1] He joined the U.S. Public Health Service in 1916.[2]

His first assignment involved fieldwork on bubonic plague in New Orleans. Five years later he joined the staff of the U.S. Hygienic Laboratory, became chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in 1936, and director of National Institutes of Health from 1942 until his retirement in 1950. An expert in infectious diseases, he demonstrated how endemic typhus is spread and is noted for developing a vaccine to protect against the disease.

As director of NIH, Dr. Dyer organized the Division of Research Grants, assisted in planning the Clinical Center, and helped establish three new institutes: the National Heart Institute, the National Institute of Dental Research, and National Institute of Mental Health. He also served as a member of the scientific board of directors of the International Health Division of the Rockefeller Foundation and as director of research at Emory University until 1957.

He died in Atlanta on June 3, 1971.[3]

His papers are held at the National Library of Medicine.[4]


  1. ^ Harden, Victoria A. (2000). "Dyer, Rolla Eugene (1886-1971), research physician and public health administrator". American National Biography. doi:10.1093/anb/9780198606697.article.1201796. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  2. ^ Barry, Jeannette (1960). "Notable contributions to medical research by Public health service scientists" (PDF). U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. pp. 12–13.
  3. ^ "Dr. Rolla E. Dyer, Ex-Director Of Institutes of Health, Is Dead". New York Times. June 3, 1971. p. 42.
  4. ^ "Rolla E. Dyer Papers 1929-1964". National Library of Medicine.
Government offices Preceded byLewis R. Thompson Director of National Institute of Health 1942 – 1948 Position abolished New title Director of National Institutes of Health 1948 – 1950 Succeeded byWilliam H. Sebrell, Jr