NIH 1999 Almanac/The Organization/NEI/
National Eye Institute: Biographical Sketch of NEI Director
Carl Kupfer, M.D.
Dr. Kupfer became the institutes first director January 11, 1970. He was formerly
professor and chairman of the department of ophthalmology, University of Washington
Medical School, Seattle.
Born on February 9, 1928, in New York City, Dr. Kupfer received his A.B. degree from
Yale University in 1948 and his M.D. from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in
1952. He completed his internship and residency at the Wilmer Eye Institute, and Johns
Hopkins Hospital, and was selected to train for 1 year as a research fellow in
ophthalmology at the Wilmer Eye Institute and for a second year at Harvard Medical School.
His interest and accomplishments in ophthalmology are numerous. His research in
glaucoma has included studies of the circulation of aqueous humor, histopathologic
examination of eyes stressed by elevated eye pressures, and developmental anatomy of the
eye. He has probed the problems of amblyopia exanopsia and has contributed important
papers on the use of nitrogen mustard for treatment of retino-blastoma, transcorneal
electrical potential, corneal fluid pressures and the developmental histology and
histochemistry of the neuromuscular junction. He has also studied the neural pathways from
the eye to the brain. More recently, he has played a leadership role in fostering the use
of well-designed clinical trials in ophthalmology.
Dr. Kupfer was on the American Journal of Ophthalmology editorial board . He was
a member of the NIH Vision Research Training Committee, and the Neurology Program Project
B committee. He currently serves on the advisory committee on basic and clinical research
of the National Society to Prevent Blindness and is a member of the scientific advisory
committee of Fight for Sight, Inc. He is also active in several international
organizations involved in blindness prevention. He is scientific adviser to the World
Health Organization on its program advisory group for the prevention of blindness and he
is on the WHO expert advisory panel on trachoma and prevention of blindness.
In 1977 he was given the Public Service Award in Ophthalmology by the American Academy
of Ophthalmology. He was elected to the Society of Scholars at Johns Hopkins University in
1982. Presently, he is a member of the Institute of Medicine, NAS. Civil Service honors
include the HEW secretarys Special Citation "in recognition of his outstanding
performance in the development of the National Eye Institute" in 1972. The following
year Dr. Kupfer received the HEW Superior Service Award for "... accomplishment in
developing NEI into an effective program for improving the visual health of the American
In 1983 Dr. Kupfer was elected president of the International Agency for the Prevention
of Blindness, a multinational consortium committed to reducing the worldwide toll of
blinding eye disease. He completed his term in November 1990.
He received the Pisart Vision Award in 1984, given by the Lighthouse, the New York
Association for the Blind, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to vision
research as founding director of NEI.
In recognition of his leadership role in vision research, Fight For Sight, Inc.,
awarded Dr. Kupfer the Mildred Weisenfeld Award for Excellence in Ophthalmology in 1987.
In 1988 he received the Health for All Medal from the World Health Organization for his
prevention of blindness activities as president of the International Agency for the
Prevention of Blindness. In 1990 he received the Presidential Distinguished Executive Rank
From May 1991 to August 1992, he served as the acting NIH deputy director for
intramural research. In addition, he was named the 1992 recipient of the Lions
Humanitarian Award, the highest honor presented by the Lions Club International.
He received the 1995 "Person of Vision" award by Prevent Blindness America,
the Nations oldest voluntary health organization dedicated to preserving sight and
fighting vision loss. He received three honorary doctor of science degrees, including one
from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1997.