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  1. FDA History

The FDA History Office

Mission & Functions

The mission of the FDA History Office is to increase knowledge of the history, mission, and activities of the FDA and its predecessor, the Bureau of Chemistry of the U. S. Department of Agriculture. The office provides perspective on current policy objectives and increases public understanding of FDA's purpose and function. In general, office activities concern research, documentation, consultation, and information. The following exemplifies some of the activities of the History Office: 


5 book covers

Some outside publications in which the authors have drawn from resources at the FDA History Office.


• development of historical background on legislative initiatives
• creation of briefing documents on precedents to major organizational changes in the agency
• background papers on policy considerations
• scholarly articles and monographs on select areas of scientific and regulatory history


• oral history interviews to fill in gaps in the paper record (see below)
• collection, preservation, and exhibition of museum objects illustrating the history of the agency (see below)
• identification and preservation of historically significant records
• development of commemorations of significant agency events and milestones


• facilitation of scholarly studies of FDA history
• referee and review of articles, books, and grant applications in the general area of FDA history
• promotion of accurate and informed FDA history, including sponsorship of a lecture series for FDA employees and interaction with colleagues in other government agencies and professional organizations


• on-the-spot information to centers, offices, and all field offices
• historically-related freedom of information queries
• reference or guidance for industry, law firms, students, the media, foundations, historical societies, and anyone else with a question about the agency's past


FDA Historians

John Swann
[email protected]

Hired as Historian in 1989. Received Ph. D. from the University of Wisconsin (Pharmacy and History of Science) in 1985. Specializes in the history of drugs, biologics, and their regulation. 

Vanessa Burrows
[email protected]

Joined the FDA History Office in January 2017.  Received a Ph.D. in History from the City University of New York Graduate Center in 2015.  Specializes in the history of medicine and public health, with a focus on medical consumerism and regulatory policy.

Cathy Sorge 
[email protected] 

Joined the FDA History Office in September 2020.  Received M.L.S. from Catholic University of America in 2006.  Extensive background in military medicine and medical archives and museums.


FDA History Office

White Oak, Bldg. 1, Rm. 1201

10903 New Hampshire Ave.

Silver Spring, MD  20993

[email protected]


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