Research for a Lifetime: Commemorating the NICHD’s 50th Anniversary

Scientific Colloquium Highlights 50 Years of Research, Accomplishments, and Future Directions

Research for a Lifetime: Commemorating the NICHD’s 50th Anniversary

In 1961, Dr. Robert E. Cooke, the chair of the pediatrics department at Johns Hopkins Hospital and senior medical advisor to President John F. Kennedy, led a Presidential Task Force on the health and well-being of children. The task force submitted a report to the President pointing out the lack of research on the physical, intellectual, and emotional growth of children and recommending the establishment of an organization to investigate disorders of human development, including intellectual and developmental disorders (IDDs).

With the impetus of the Task Force report, Congress established the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development within the NIH to investigate human development at all its stages, from pre-pregnancy to adulthood, including IDDs and events of pregnancy. With President Kennedy's signature, the Institute was officially founded on October 17, 1962.

As the Institute marks its golden anniversary, we look back on the NICHD's early years, its scientific accomplishments, and its future. For more information, select a link below.

A Look Back
Research for a Lifetime
A Look Ahead
More Information

A Look Back

Much has changed in the 50 years since the NICHD came to be. For example:

  • The U.S. infant mortality rate in 1962 was 25.3 deaths per 1,000 live births; today, the U.S. infant mortality rate is 6 deaths per 1,000 live births. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] and Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book, respectively)
  • In the 1960s, 25,000 preterm infants who developed respiratory distress syndrome died from the condition; in 2009 (most recent date for which data were available), 595 preterm infants died from the condition. (American Lung Association and CDC, respectively)
  • Statistics suggested that approximately 5 million Americans had intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in 1962. Approximately 2.5 million Americans are living with IDD today. (National Plan to Combat Mental Retardation [1962] and CDC, respectively)
  • HIV/AIDS was still unknown—it would be 20 years before the disease had a name. More than 40 years and millions of deaths later, effective interventions would shift HIV/AIDS from a fatal disease to a chronic disease.
  • Francis Crick, James Watkins, and Maurice Wilkins received the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of the molecular structure of DNA. Today, scientists can manipulate that structure to "knockout" genes in model organisms as a way of studying typical and atypical development.

Many of these changes have resulted from research from the NICHD and other NIH Institutes.

You can visit Events in NICHD History and the Institute Mission and Accomplishments for details on its 50 years of science. Additional information about some significant science within the NICHD portfolio and events in NICHD history is available at:


Research for a Lifetime

To commemorate its golden anniversary, the NICHD is hosting a scientific colloquium on December 5, 2012, in Masur Auditorium on the NIH main campus. The day's agenda features two Nobel Prize winners, the NIH and NICHD Directors, previous Institute leaders, and renowned scientists.

The Colloquium begins with past meeting present: a video interview between Dr. Alan Guttmacher, the current NICHD Director, and Dr. Robert Cooke, whose 1961 Task Force Report on the Health and Well-Being of Children contributed to the NICHD's founding.

The event will also include remarks by include:

  • NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins
  • NICHD Director Dr. Alan Guttmacher
  • Renowned researchers, such as Dr. Ralph Brinster, Dr. David Barker, and Dr. William Crowley, and Linda Giudice
  • Nobel laureates Dr. Eric Wieschaus and Dr. James Heckman
  • Former NICHD Director Dr. Duane Alexander
  • Dr. Timothy Shriver,  chairman and CEO of Special Olympics
  • Panel discussion: Transforming the Culture of Science
  • Research for a Lifetime: The Journey Forward video premiere

For a complete schedule of the day's events, see the Colloquium Agenda.

A reception immediately following the Colloquium will feature: Dr. Guttmacher; Dr. John Gallin, Director of the NIH Clinical Center; Dr. Collins; and Dr. Rosemarie Truglio, Senior Vice President of Education and Research at Sesame Workshop, and former member of the National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council, and her special guest.

The full day's events will be available to view through the NIH Videocast website in the weeks after the Colloquium.

Read the Research for a Lifetime: The Journey Forward text alternative.


Read the Research for a Lifetime: A Scientific Colloquium To Commemorate the NICHD's 50th Anniversary text alternative.


Read the A Conversation with Dr. Robert Cooke text alternative.


A Look Ahead

The Institute will also release its Scientific Vision at the 50th anniversary event.

The Vision statement was created in collaboration with Institute colleagues in the research, health care provider, and public policy, public health, and advocacy communities following an in-depth discussions to identify the most promising scientific opportunities of the next decade across the breadth of the NICHD mission. The Vision sets an ambitious research agenda not only for the NICHD, but also for the Institute's collaborators and stakeholders.

A primary feature of the Vision is that it requires intra- and inter- -Institute, interagency, interdisciplinary, and international collaboration to accomplish these scientific goals. In addition, the Vision aims to capitalize on best practices and cutting-edge technologies while encouraging innovation and creativity.

The Vision will help inform an Institute-wide strategic planning process, which will commence early in 2013.


More Information

For more information on the NICHD and the 50th anniversary colloquium, select one of the links below:


Originally Posted December 4, 2012


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