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26 October 2021

Professor Sir Michael Rutter 1933 - 2021

'Father of Child Psychiatry' dies peacefully at home on 23 October 2021

Professor Sir Michael Rutter

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.

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 Sir Michael Rutter was one of the most influential psychiatric scientists of his generation. As 'father of Child Psychiatry' he transformed our understanding of child and adolescent mental health. His work inspired a generation of medical students into psychiatry, and a generation of psychiatrists into research. His work changed the lives of countless patients and we are honoured to have had him in our midst.

Professor Shitij Kapur, President and Principal King’s College London

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.

Mike was not only a towering intellect and pioneering scientist, he also trained generations of child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychologists who learned from his clinical acumen and dedication to his patients. He demonstrated the power of clinical observation and how this ability could be turned into the cutting-edge scientific questions.

Professor Emily Simonoff, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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 IoP and the MRC, Sir Michael was appointed as its first director.

Mike's extraordinary career has been inspirational to many. His work underpins much of our current research at the SGDP Centre, which I know remained close to his heart, and he was beloved by our SGDP community here. He will be missed, and it will be hard to imagine the Centre without him.

Professor Cathryn Lewis, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology & Statistics

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 Institute in 2021 after 55 years.

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.

Professor Ian Everall, Executive Dean, IoPPN

The thoughts and deepest sympathies of the King’s and IoPPN community 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.

In this story

Michael Rutter

Emeritus Professor of Developmental Psychopathology