Institutional milestones

The Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory was founded in 1929 by Clarence Cook Little, a Harvard-trained geneticist who had served as president of the University of Maine and the University of Michigan. 

Little created the first inbred (genetically uniform) mouse strains and wanted to use them experimentally to establish that cancer was a genetic disease, not an infectious disorder, as was widely thought at the time. He gained initial financial support for the Laboratory from Detroit industrialists Edsel Ford, president of the Ford Motor Company, and Roscoe B. Jackson (for whom the Laboratory is named), president of the Hudson Motorcar Company.

Little chose Bar Harbor as the site for his new research institution because he had successfully brought students to the area for summer field studies in natural history. The Laboratory was built on land donated by Little’s family friend, George B. Dorr.

In 1933 the Laboratory began providing genetically defined mouse strains to the scientific community as experimental models for various human diseases.

In 1963 the Laboratory was renamed The Jackson Laboratory.

Today the institution has added a facility in Sacramento, Calif., and The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn.


1923: Clarence Cook (C.C.) Little, president of the University of Maine, holds the first summer laboratory session the Bar Harbor area with six students. The camping trip is for a field study project in natural history.

1929: C.C. Little ends his term as president of the University of Michigan and founds the Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory in Bar Harbor. Support comes from Detroit industrialists such as Edsel Ford and Jackson, president of the Hudson Motorcar Company, with land donated by family friend George B. Dorr.

1930: The staff consists of Clarence Cook Little, Elizabeth Fekete, Joseph Murray, Arthur Cloudman, Leonell Strong, Charles Green and John Bittner.

1931: The Jackson Laboratory hosts its first summer students.

1933: The first Jackson mice are sold to researchers at other institutions.

1941: The first edition of Biology of the Laboratory Mouse—the first book devoted to mouse biology and genetics—is published.

1947: A fire destroys most of the Jackson Memorial Laboratory and its mice. Researchers rally to rebuild stocks; donations and mice come in from around the world.


1960: The Laboratory helps conduct the first Medical Genetics Short Course, organized by Victor McKusick & John Fuller.

1963: The official name of the institution changes to The Jackson Laboratory on September 18.

1968: Annual research grant total reaches $2 million.

1974: Mouse Genetics Laboratory is dedicated and named for Earl Green on his retirement as director. Doug Coleman is appointed interim director.

1976: Richmond Prehn is appointed the third director of what is now the world's largest center of mammalian genetics research: 450 employees, 700,000 mice, $9 million budget.

1979: The Frozen Embryo Repository (today known as the Cryopreservation Resource) is established, directed by Dr. Larry Mobraaten.

1980: George D. Snell, senior staff scientist emeritus, accepts the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

1980: Biomedical Research and Animal Research Laboratories (Snell wing) are completed.

1981: Barbara Hugus Sanford is named director.

1983: National Cancer Institute awards CORE grant, making The Jackson Laboratory the only mammalian laboratory designated as a Cancer Center.

1989: On May 10, a fire destroys the Morrell Park mouse production facility; half a million mice are lost. Kenneth Paigen, whose appointment as the next director was to begin in October, is visiting the Lab that day and immediately takes over as director.

1992: New Morrell Park opens.

1993: North Research Building is completed.       

1999: The 40th anniversary of the Short Course on Medical and Experimental Mammalian Genetics closes with a major genetics symposium.


2000: Genetics Resources building opens.

2000: A $16.3-million grant from the NIH funds a major new research program at The Jackson Laboratory to increase the number and availability of mouse models for human neurological diseases such as epilepsy, addiction and neurodegenerative disorders.

2000: The NIH awards a $14 million grant to The Jackson Laboratory to establish a center for mouse models of heart, lung, blood and sleep disorders.

2002: Richard Woychik, Ph.D., is named director.

2004: 75th Anniversary celebrations include a scientific symposium: "The role of the mouse in biomedical research--past, present and future," featuring prominent researchers in cancer, retroviruses, MHC, stem cells, metabolism, genomics, and interdisciplinary science.

2006: Center for Genome Dynamics is established to study systems genetics with $15.1 million grant from NIH.

2006: East Research Building opens with a ribbon cutting ceremony attended by U.S. senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, U.S. Representative Tom Allen and Maine Governor John Baldacci.

2007: Robert Braun, Ph.D., assumes role as Associate Director and Research Chair at the Laboratory, now Vice President for Research.

2009: JAX—West's new facility opens in Sacramento, Calif., greatly expanding the Laboratory's West Coast presence.

2010: JAX® Mice from The Jackson Laboratory are part of the Space Shuttle Discovery crew that lifts off from Cape Canaveral on April 5, part of an experiment to help scientists understand the long-term effects of space environment on the immune system's ability to fight infection.     

2010: When the Maine State Science Fair languishes for lack of funding, The Jackson Laboratory takes over the Fair coordination as part of its mission to educate the next generation of scientists.      

2010: Jackson Laboratory Professor Emeritus Douglas Coleman, Ph.D., a pioneer in obesity and diabetes research, shares the prestigious 2010 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award with Dr. Jeffrey Friedman of Rockefeller University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

2011: Edison T. Liu, M.D., an international leader in cancer biology, genomics, human genetics and molecular epidemiology, is appointed president and chief executive officer of the Laboratory.  

2011: The Connecticut legislature approves $291 million in bond funding to build a new Jackson Laboratory center for genomic medicine in the state.

2011: Professor John Eppig, Ph.D., a pioneer in developmental and reproductive biology, is elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the top honors in American science.

2011: The Jackson Laboratory joins 10 top New York medical and academic research institutes in founding the New York Genome Center. Launched at a ceremony in New York, the NYGC will become one of the largest genomic facilities in North America, providing Jackson researchers with access to vastly increased gene-sequencing capability and expertise.       

2012: The Jackson Laboratory establishes a new Rare and Orphan Disease Center to address conditions that, while individually rare, collectively affect about one in 10 Americans, according to the National Association for Rare Disorders.     

2012: A $27 million expansion of the JAX—West facility in Sacramento adds new vivarium space to house and care for genetically defined mice that are provided to the West Coast biomedical research community.

2012: The Jackson Laboratory purchases the former Lowe’s building in Ellsworth, Maine, securing a 143,000-square-foot building on a 17-acre site for expansion of its Maine operations.

2013: More than 300 scientists, state officials, business leaders and other invited guests mark the start of construction of The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, Conn.

2014: The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine opens on Oct. 7, followed by a high-profile scientific symposium.