Public Science

How the MRC began

Responding to a national epidemic

How-the-MRC-beganThe MRC began life as the Medical Research Committee in 1913, formed in response to the TB epidemic. At the time, 50,000 people were dying annually in the UK as a result of tuberculosis. There was no effective treatment (antibiotics) or prevention (vaccination). The government took action by using a proportion of national insurance contributions to fund sanatoria (pictured) and initiate medical research in a bid to find a cure. The MRC first convened in June 1913 to decide how government funds should be spent. While TB was a key focus, early research projects were quite diverse and included the study of rickets and diseases of the nervous system, among others. An interactive exhibition, Strictly Science: keeping one step ahead explores past and present medical research and invites the public to share their hopes and fears for the next century. Visit the exhibition website at To find out more about what the MRC is doing to commemorate 100 years in 2013, visit