The Douglas Children

History of the NSHD and the scientific legacy of Dr James Douglas

Dr James WB Douglas, a physician with a strong interest in medicine in society, founded the NSHD and directed the study until his retirement in 1979. Professor John Colley was the Director between 1979 and 1985.

Many study members still describe themselves as the ‘Douglas children’ and this was the name given to the documentary about the study that was made to celebrate NSHD’s 65th birthday. From the beginning, Dr James Douglas promoted the use of rigorous scientific methods to test the effects of social as well as biomedical factors on health and development in childhood and young adult life. His findings were published in numerous scientific articles, as well as four influential books.

Professor Michael Wadsworth, the third director of the study (from 1985 to 2006) has written two articles, ‘Dr JWB Douglas’ and ‘The influential intellectual legacy of Dr JWB Douglas: originator and developer of the large birth cohort study research method’, about the intellectual legacy of Dr James Douglas.

In 2010, Professor Wadsworth wrote an article about the origins and innovatory nature of the NSHD which builds on his book about the NSHD The Imprint of Time, which was published by Oxford University Press in 1991.

These books are now out of print but can be borrowed from libraries and are still to be found for sale on the internet.

More information on the NSHD can be found in the two cohort profiles published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.  The first cohort profile was written by Professor Michael Wadsworth and takes the study up to 2006. The updated cohort profile was written by Professor Diana Kuh, the director of NSHD since 2007, and provides information about the clinic data collection at 60-64 years.

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