Professor Sir Michael Rutter 1933 – 2021 | Capital Projects News

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Professor Sir Michael Rutter 1933 – 2021

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, together with King’s College London, is deeply saddened to announce that Emeritus Professor Sir Michael Rutter CBE FRS FRCP FRCPsych FMedSci, has died peacefully at home surrounded by his family.

Professor Sir Michael Rutter was regarded as the ‘father of Child Psychiatry’, paving the way for numerous developmental psychologists and psychiatrists around the world. He was credited with many breakthroughs within his field and his career laid the foundations of Child Psychiatry and Developmental Psychopathology.

Emeritus Professor Sir Michael Rutter trained in medicine at the University of Birmingham, England, with post-graduate training in neurology and paediatrics. He trained in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital and started working at the (then) Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) in 1966.

In 1973, he was awarded the first UK Professorship in Child Psychiatry. He went on to become Head of the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and was awarded a professorship in Developmental Psychopathology in 1988.

The Michael Rutter Centre for Children and Adolescents was set up at Maudsley Hospital, where Sir Michael was a consultant psychiatrist. The Centre developed an international reputation for providing services and specialist treatments for young people with mental health difficulties

His world-renowned work included his early epidemiological ‘Isle of Wight’ and ‘Inner London’ studies; and the ground-breaking English and Romanian Adoptee study showing how deprivation in early life affects child development, attachment and the formation of new relationships.

Professor Emily Simonoff, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said:

“Mike’s contributions to child psychiatry and developmental psychopathology were truly unparalleled and he led the transformation of our field into the present era as a modern clinical science. At the Maudsley and King’s, we have been very lucky to have both his intellect and clinical skill so close to hand, and to have been able to benefit so directly from his knowledge and wisdom. Mike built the foundations of the clinical academic grouping that we now identify as our commitment to provide the highest quality evidence-based care for children and young people with mental health problems through collaboration between clinicians and scientists. His exemplary commitment to both science and clinical service provided the basis for our unique collaboration between clinical and academic departments.”

In 1984, the Medical Research Council set up the MRC Child Psychiatry Research Unit, with Sir Michael appointed as its Director. When the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry (SGDP) Centre was set up in 1994 as a partnership between the IoP and the MRC, Sir Michael was appointed as its first director.

Professor Ian Everall, Executive Dean, IoPPN and Non-executive Director at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust said:

“Mike’s commitment to his work was evident right up to the start of the pandemic when he would attend campus several times a week. It is a privilege to have worked with him and his legacy will live on through the work of countless researchers and mental health professionals who trained with Sir Michael.”

He published upwards of 400 empirical articles and 40 books, many of which have had a lasting impact on the understanding of child development. In 1993 he published his seminal book ‘Developing Minds’ that he wrote with his wife Marjorie and which charted a comprehensive and vivid map of human growth from cradle to grave. They argued that there are discontinuities as well as continuities to the growth process and trace how basic aspects of psychological functioning (such as emotion and cognition) change over the course of life.

Sir Michael has been the recipient of numerous awards and positions including 21 honorary doctorates. He was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1984. He was knighted in 1992 for his contributions to the field of Child Psychiatry. In 2004, Sir Michael was awarded the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology Distinguished Career Award by the American Psychological Association for his major contributions to public policy and scientific practice. In 2020 he received the Paredes Humanitarian Award in Mental Health.

He also held positions as the Deputy Chairman of the Wellcome Trust, Trustee of the Nuffield Foundation, Founding Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and Academia Europaea, and President of YoungMinds, the UK’s leading charity for young people’s mental health.Sir Michael retired from the IoPPN in 2021 after 55 years.

The thoughts and deepest sympathies of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust community together with King's College London, are with Sir Michael’s family, colleagues and friends.

For a longer look over Professor Sir Michael Rutter’s career, please see this article posted earlier this year to mark his retirement from the IoPPN, including a short video from Sir Michael’s colleagues, collaborators, and friends who have shared their experiences of working with him over the years.


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