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Former NINDS Director Masland Dies

By Shannon E. Garnett

Dr. Richard L. Masland, 93, former NINDS director, died Dec. 19 of pneumonia.

Widely recognized as an expert on mental retardation, Masland served as the second director of the institute (then named the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness — NINDB) from 1959 to 1968. Among outstanding contributions during his administration was the development of the National Collaborative Perinatal Project — a very large prospective study that followed more than 50,000 women from their pregnancies until the children reached 8 years old. The study was designed to find and clarify the causes of cerebral palsy, mental retardation and other neurological disorders.

Dr. Richard L. Masland
Masland's interest in this subject began before coming to NIH and included a nationwide survey he conducted from 1955 to 1957 of research facilities and potential in the field of mental retardation. The results of the study were published in 1958 in the book Mental Subnormality.

As NINDB director, Masland recruited many noted researchers to develop and expand the institute's research programs, including Dr. Carleton Gajdusek and Dr. Clarence Gibbs — who together created a research program on human prion disease. Their work later led to Gajdusek's winning a Nobel prize for research on kuru (a rare, devastating neurological disorder). Masland also started an epidemiological division, headed by Dr. Leonard Kurland. In 1961, Masland established a series of clinical research centers — bringing together teams of investigators working on related research — as well as important programs in head injury led by Dr. William F. Caveness, and in epilepsy led by Dr. J. Kiffin Penry.

Under Masland's directorship, neurological and sensory research and training programs expanded rapidly, and the institute's budget grew from $40 million in 1959 to $129 million in 1967.

"During his tenure, Dr. Masland developed and strengthened NINDS's programs in clinical research, epidemiology, infectious diseases and perinatal research — establishing himself as a legendary scientist and visionary, and positioning the institute as the nation's cornerstone for brain research," said NINDS director Dr. Story Landis. "Many of the programs he started are still critical to our mission today."

Born in Philadelphia, Masland earned his undergraduate degree from Haverford College in 1931, and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1935.

After a 2-year internship at the Pennsylvania Hospital, his neurological career began and continued a steady climb to distinction as a clinician, teacher, author and researcher in neurology and clinical neurophysiology. At the University of Pennsylvania, he was appointed fellow in neurology in 1938, and associate in neurology in 1940. While at the Pennsylvania Hospital, he was assistant neurologist from 1939 to 1946. In addition, Masland was a veteran of the U.S. Army — serving from 1942 to 1945, including 2 years as director of the department of physiology at the School of Aviation Medicine. In 1946, he was appointed fellow in psychiatry at the Pennsylvania Institute for Mental Hygiene.

Before coming to NINDB, Masland was professor of neurology and psychiatry at Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest College in Winston-Salem, N.C. He took a leave of absence from Bowman Gray in 1955 to become research director of the National Association for Retarded Children. In 1957, he was named assistant director of NINDS. He became director in 1959.

Masland left NINDS in 1968 to join the staff of Columbia University as professor of neurology and chairman of the department of neurology at the University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. He also served as director of the Neurological Service at Presbyterian Hospital's Neurological Institute in New York City. He later became president of the World Federation of Neurology — serving from 1981 to 1989.

During his career, Masland held offices in numerous professional organizations and served on many committees and advisory groups. He was widely published in such research areas as convulsive disorders, the effect of anoxia on the central nervous system, voluntary muscle disorders and drug therapy for neuromuscular disease.

Throughout his lifetime, Masland received countless awards and accolades including the 1963 Award of Merit from the National Association for Retarded Children for his research on the causes of mental retardation. The award — which cited Masland as a "scientist, humanitarian and pioneer for his achievements in alleviating mental retardation" — was presented by President John F. Kennedy.

Masland is survived by his wife, Mary Wootton Masland of Englewood, N.J., a speech and language pathologist; two sons, Prof. Richard Masland of Weston, Mass., and Tom Masland of Cape Town, South Africa; two daughters, Frances Masland, of Newton, Mass., and Sarah Bender of Colorado Springs; and seven grandchildren.

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