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100th Meeting
February 14, 2002
Bethesda, MD

National Eye Institute
Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D.


On February 14, 2002, the National Eye Institute (NEI) held the 100th meeting of the National Advisory Eye Council (NAEC) in Executive Plaza North, Bethesda, MD. To mark the occasion, this document has been assembled to present highlights from the history of the Council in order to recognize and illustrate its contributions to the mission of the NEI and the field of vision research.


Establishment of the NAEC

On August 16, 1968, convinced that visual disorders constituted a major public health problem that could only be solved by placing greater emphasis on vision research, the United States Congress passed Public Law 90-489, authorizing formation of the NEI as part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). President Lyndon B. Johnson signed this authorizing legislation. The new institute was subsequently established on December 26, 1968, through a reorganization of the then National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Blindness (NINDB) into the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke and the National Eye Institute. Robert Q. Marston, M.D., Director of the NIH, appointed Edward F. MacNichol, Jr., Ph.D., as Acting Director of the new NEI.

The mission of the NEI as defined in its authorizing legislation was straightforward: find new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases of the visual system, thus preventing and possibly eliminating blindness. This was to be done by conducting research in intramural laboratories and by supporting extramural research and research training regarding blinding eye diseases and visual disorders. This charge was stated to include the special health problems and requirements of the blind, as well as the basic and clinical sciences relating to the mechanisms of visual function and preservation of sight.

As the first step in establishing an administration for the new institute, Dr. Marston appointed an advisory council, made up of twelve nationally recognized leaders in the fields of ophthalmology, optometry, and the basic sciences (Appendix A). This group was charged with the thrice-yearly responsibility to review and recommend research and research training grant applications in the field of vision research, to survey total research efforts in the field, and to recommend actions necessary to stimulate additional work in gap areas. In addition, the NAEC was urged to report to the Director, NIH, regarding any policy questions, unusual program developments or grant actions, items with significant public relations implications (either national or congressional) , or other items of unusual interest.


The first NAEC meeting

The 1st meeting of the NAEC was an orientation and planning session, held while the NIH pursued the recruitment of Carl Kupfer, M.D., as the first Director of the new National Eye Institute. The meeting took place on April 3-4, 1969, in NIH Building 36. Looking back at the official records from that meeting (Appendix B), one sees that the members were dealing with a very familiar set of topics, issues, and concerns:

  • The Executive Secretary, Murray Goldstein, D.O., Associate Director for Extramural Programs, NINDS (and later Director of that Institute) sent members a cover letter apologizing for the “tremendous” volume of reading material and proposing a system to identify important material that required “special action”.
  • Staff reviewed operating procedures and Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality regulations.
  • Council initiated program planning by considering a report, “Recommendations to the National Advisory Neurological Diseases and Blindness Council from its ad hoc Subcommittee on Rehabilitation”. This study, presented by its Chair, Rev. Thomas J. Carroll, called for establishment of a study section in the Division of Research Grants to be concerned with research relating to the social and behavioral aspects of visual impairment and rehabilitation; inclusion of incentive funds in ophthalmological training grants to recruit practitioners into this field; and a five-fold increase in the level of funding of rehabilitation-related research. Council deferred action on the report to the June meeting, so that members would be able to read this lengthy report.
  • Council conducted a second level review of grant applications. At this first meeting there was a single grant, “Tissue Distribution Center”, Dr. John H. King, Sibley Memorial Hospital. Dr. King requested $94,000 to establish a teletype communications network between major eye-banks within the United States. Council voted unanimously to refer the application to the Division of Research Grants for study section review prior to the June Council meeting.
  • Staff presented information regarding the FY68, FY69, and FY70 budgets and the grants and personnel transferred from NINDB to NEI:


$ in Millions (FTEs)

Grants FY68 FY69 FY70
Research $15.7 $16.2 $19.7
Training 3.5 3.6 3.5
Fellowship 0.48 0.68 0.65
TOTAL GRANTS $19.7 $20.5 $23.8
Intramural Research .65 (40) .74 (40) .75 (40)
CCR .20 .35 .35
Biometry .29 (15) .30 (15) .32 (15)
Scientific Review .34 (6) .37 (8) .47 (15)
Program Direction .12 (8)
TOTAL RMS $1.5 (61) $1.8 (63) $2.0 (78)
TOTAL NEI $21.2 (61) $22.2 (63) $25.8 (78)

The Council was warned of anticipated reductions in NIH appropriations and its effect on research institutions supported by NIH; problems of rapidly increasing demand for health services, particularly in view of third party mechanisms for supporting these services and the need to utilize this support wisely; and problems in meeting needs for additional manpower and training. The members indicated that they felt the most advantageous use of training grant funds would require discontinuation of the policy on payment of stipends.



Chairs of the NAEC

1968 - 1970 Robert Q. Marston, M.D., Director, NIH
1970 - 2000 Carl Kupfer, M.D., Director, NEI
2000 - 2001 Jack A. McLaughlin, Ph.D., Acting Director, NEI
2002 - present Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., Director, NEI


Research highlights

Over the course of 100 meetings, the NAEC has reviewed proposals from outstanding investigators who have discovered new therapies for ocular diseases and disorders, increased our understanding of the function of the visual system, and employed the visual system as a model to explain fundamental biological processes. These achievements include:

  • First description of the molecular mechanism of sensory transduction
  • First discovery of an antiviral chemotherapeutic agent
  • First human gene to be cloned
  • First purification of a human mRNA molecule
  • First discovery of a tumor suppressor gene
  • First nutritional supplement shown to prevent or delay disease onset
  • Crystal structure of human rhodopsin
  • Discovery of foscarnet treatment for Cytomegalovirus retinitis in AIDS patients


Historical Program Planning Highlights

  • April, 1975 Vision Research Program Planning
    The first comprehensive assessment of major needs and opportunities in vision research in the US
  • April 1978 Vision Research: 1978-1982
  • May 1983 Vision Research: 1983-87
  • 1987 Vision Research-A National Plan: 1983-1987, 1987 Evaluation and Update
  • June 1993 Vision Research-A National Plan: 1994-1998
  • June 1998 Vision Research-A National Plan: 1999-2003


National Advisory Eye Council in 1968

April 3-4, 1968

Terms end 11/30 of the year designated in parentheses.

Dr. Bernard Becker (73)
Professor of Ophthalmology
School of Medicine
Washington University
St. Louis, Missouri

Dr. David G. Cogan (72)
Professor of Ophthalmology
Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts

Dr. John W. Ferree (70)
Executive Director
National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, Inc.
New York, New York

Dr. Glenn A. Fry (73)
College of Optometry
Ohio State University
Columbus, Ohio

Dr. John E. Harris (72)
Professor and Head
Department of Ophthalmology
Medical School
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Dr. Haldan K. Hartline (73)
Member and Professor
Rockefeller University
New York, New York

Dr. V. Everett Kinsey (70)
Institute of Biological Sciences
Oakland University
Rochester, Michigan

Dr. A. Edward Maumenee (70)
The Wilmer Institute
Johns Hopkins Hospital
Baltimore, Maryland

Dr. Meredith W. Morgan (71)
Dean, School of Optometry
University of California
Berkeley, California

Dr. George K. Smelser (72)
Professor of Anatomy
Department of Ophthalmology
College of Physicians and Surgeons
Columbia University
New York, New York

Dr. Jules Stein (71)
Chairman, Board of Directors
Music Corporation of America, Inc.
100 Universal City Plaza
University City, California

Dr. Kenneth C. Swan (71)
Professor of Ophthalmology
Department of Ophthalmology
Medical School
University of Oregon
Portland, Oregon

Dr. Noble J. David
Chief, Neurology Service
Veterans Administration Hospital
Miami, Florida 
Alternate for: 
Dr. H. Martin Engle
Chief Medical Director
Department of Medicine and Surgery
Veterans Administration 
Washington, D.C.

Dr. James F. Culver (Col.)
United States Air Force (MC)
AWC, Maxwell AFB, Alabama
Alternate for:
Dr. Louis M. Rousselot
Deputy Assistant Sec.
(Health and Medicine)
Office Assistant Sec.
for Manpower
Department of Defense
Washington, D.C.

Dr. Robert Q. Marston (Chairman)
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, Maryland

National Institutes of Health



First Meeting

National Advisory Eye Council

9:30 A.M., April 3 and 4, 1969
Conference Room 1B07, Building 36
Telephone: 496-4731

I. Call to Order and Opening Remarks

II. National Institutes of Health … ... Dr. Robert Q. Marston and staff
Organization and role

III. National Eye Institute … … Dr. Edward F. MacNichol, Jr.

A. Law Establishing Institute
B. Role of Institute
C. Institute Resources
D. Status of Search for a Director
E. Other

IV. National Advisory Council… … Dr. MacNichol and staff

A. Responsibilities of Council
B. Council Organization and Operation
C. Other

V. Extramural Programs… … Dr. Murray Goldstein

A. Research
B. Training

VI. Program Planning and Development

A. Report of NANDS ad hoc Subcommittee on Rehabilitation
… … Reverend Thomas J. Carroll
B. Research Needs
C. Training Needs
D. Other

VII. Confirmation of Dates for Future Council Meetings

June 23 and 24, 1969 (Monday and Tuesday)
November 24 and 25, 1969 ” “
March 16 and 17, 1970 ” “

VIII. Other Business

IX. Adjournment


Historical Meeting Dates

  • March 7 and June 9, 1996
  • January 26–27, June 1, and September 15, 1995
  • February 3, June 2, and September 8–9, 1994
  • February 4, June 3, and September 9–10, 1993
  • February 13–14, May 28, and September 8, 1992
  • February 1, May 30–31, and September 12–13, 1991
  • January 30, June 14, and September 12–13, 1990
  • January 26, June 14, and September 14, 1989
  • January 26, June 3, and September 15, 1988
  • January 26–27, June 1, and September 17–18, 1987
  • January 27, June 2, and September 29–30, 1986
  • January 1, May 30, and September 23, 1985
  • January 30-31, May 24, and September 17, 1984
  • January 24, May 26, and September 19–20, 1983
  • February 1–2, June 3, and September 29, 1982
  • January 19–20, June 1-2, and September 21, 1981
  • February 4–5, May 28–29, and September 22-23, 1980
  • January 29–30, May 21–22, and October 25–26, 1979
  • January 23–25, June 5–7, and September 20–21, 1978
  • January 24–26, May 26-28, and September 26–28, 1977
  • March 22–23, June 11, and September 13–14, 1976
  • March 17–18, June 9, June 23, and November 18, 1975
  • March 19, June 25, and November 18–19, 1974
  • March 20, June 14, and November 20, 1973
  • March 20, June 16, and November 21, 1972
  • March 22, June 14-15, and November 15–16, 1971
  • March 23–24, June 8–9, and November 16–17, 1970
  • March 3-4, June 26-27, and November 24, 1969


Last updated: August 12, 2022