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Public health laboratories are the invisible key to public health. These laboratories have played a significant role in the health of the community since their inception in the late 1800s. They provide confirmation of disease outbreaks and statistics on the health and welfare of the people, with more recent activities in the detection of biological and chemical agents of terrorism. However, the history of these laboratories is mostly unknown. For instance, a recent brief historical account of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services did not include information on the state public health laboratory in the timeline of historical events (Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, p.1). On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the inception of what is now known as the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), we feel compelled to provide this historical account in recognition of the i importance of the laboratory to preserve the health of Nebraskans. Charles Rosen, a noted medical historian, wrote that “the public health laboratory service[s]…[is of] enormous value to the community [and] cannot be exaggerated. The responsibility of the government to protect the health of the people is concretely exemplified in the public health laboratory” (Rosen, p. 311).

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