In Memoriam: Robert N. Butler, M.D.

July 5, 2010

Dr. Robert Butler

Dr. Robert N. Butler, NIA’s founding director, died July 4, 2010. He was 83.

Dr. Butler leaves behind an unparalleled professional and personal legacy. There was no greater champion for older people and for the research and policies that could improve their lives. Dr. Butler came to the NIA on May 1, 1976. Two days later, he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his passionate presentation of what he termed “ageism,” and which he worked to eradicate throughout his life. At NIA, he set in place a visionary research endeavor, building a rationale and organization for a broad program of basic, biomedical, social, and behavioral research that remains at the core of our efforts today. A geriatric psychiatrist, Dr. Butler was particularly proud of focusing public and research attention to Alzheimer’s disease and dementias.

He left NIA in 1982 to direct a new Department of Geriatrics at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and continued his advocacy for older people and for the study of aging in founding the International Longevity Center USA.

“Bob Butler was a pioneer who sought to redefine aging, for both individuals and society,” said NIA Director Dr. Richard J. Hodes. “He challenged the status quo, looking at what can be achieved in later life, not at what might be lost. The field of aging research—and anyone seeking a better life with age—has lost a best friend.”

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