Our History

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1952 Founded by John D. Rockefeller 3rd

John D. Rockefeller 3rd convenes distinguished scientists in Williamsburg, Virginia, under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, to begin the search for a better understanding of population issues. Shortly thereafter, he establishes the Population Council as an independent, nonprofit organization. He serves as the Council's first president.

Founded by John D. Rockefeller 3rd
1953 First Fellowships

Population Council awards its first eight fellowships to promising young graduate students for advanced training in demography; biomedical awards begin the following year.

First Fellowships
1953 Grants for Studies of Family Planning

Population Council begins providing grants to researchers and institutions around the world for studies of knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to family planning.

Grants for Studies of Family Planning
1956 Biomedical Research Lab

Population Council establishes one of the first biomedical research labs at the Rockefeller Institute (now Rockefeller University) devoted to understanding the human reproductive system and speeding the search for new contraceptives.

Biomedical Research Lab
1957 Frederick Osborn

Frederick Osborn becomes second Population Council president. 

Frederick Osborn
1959 Frank W. Notestein

Frank W. Notestein becomes third Population Council president. 

Frank W. Notestein
1961 Taichung City Study on Family Planning

Population Council supports a pioneering study in Taichung City, Taiwan, to increase access to family planning information and services.

Taichung City Study on Family Planning
1962 First International IUD Conference

Population Council hosts the first international conference on intrauterine devices (IUDs) to consolidate current knowledge on this effective, but little-used contraceptive approach and spur interest in the development of new devices.

First International IUD Conference
1963 Studies in Family Planning

Population Council publishes first issue of Studies in Family Planning.

Studies in Family Planning
1965 International Conference on Family Planning

Population Council and Ford Foundation host the first international conference on family planning programs, contraceptives, and research and evaluation. Experts present research later published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

International Conference on Family Planning
1966 International Postpartum Project

Population Council initiates the International Postpartum Project to determine the feasibility of providing  family planning services in hospitals following childbirth; more than 250 hospitals in 21 countries participated and more than a million women received their desired family planning method. 

International Postpartum Project
1968 Bernard Berelson

Bernard Berelson becomes fourth Population Council president. 

Bernard Berelson
1968 Educating Researchers

Population Council begins working with universities across Africa to strengthen their demographic course offerings and research capability. 

Educating Researchers
1970 International Committee for Contraception Research

Population Council forms the International Committee for Contraception Research (ICCR), a network of distinguished scientists and clinical investigators who conduct clinical trials to test the safety, efficacy, and acceptability of Council-developed products.

(Right) ICCR at its 100th meeting.

International Committee for Contraception Research
1974 Maternal and Child Health-Based Family Planning

Population Council develops successful, comprehensive maternal and child health-based family planning projects in Indonesia, Nigeria, the Philippines, and Turkey, changing the way leaders think about integrating maternal and child healthcare and family planning in rural areas.

Maternal and Child Health-Based Family Planning
1975 Population and Development Review

Population Council publishes first issue of Population and Development Review

Population and Development Review
1976 George Zeidenstein

George Zeidenstein becomes fifth Population Council president. 

George Zeidenstein
1976 T200 IUD

U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the Population Council’s Copper T200 IUD, the first-ever New Drug Application sponsored by a nonprofit research organization. 

T200 IUD
1977 Matlab Family Planning Research

Council begins its long-term collaboration with icddr,b to document the benefits of family planning in the Matlab district of Bangladesh. 

Matlab Family Planning Research
1977 Oral Contraceptives and Smoking

Population Council demographer Anrudh Jain documents for the first time that smoking cigarettes while using oral contraceptives increases women’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and death, particularly for those 40 years and older. 

Oral Contraceptives and Smoking
1978 Proximate Determinants of Fertility

Population Council demographer John Bongaarts develops a framework that explains how events like marriage, childbirth, and abortion affect fertility overall. Today this model is still one of the most widely used tools for analyzing fertility and fertility change.

Proximate Determinants of Fertility
1978 Middle East Research Awards

Population Council establishes Middle East Research Awards program to strengthen the skills of talented young social scientists from the region.

Middle East Research Awards
1981 Operations Research

Population Council begins large-scale operations research to improve the availability, quality, and sustainability of family planning services in Asia.

Operations Research
1984 ParaGard® IUD

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the Population Council’s Copper T 380A IUD, now known as ParaGard®. 

ParaGard® IUD
1984 INOPAL Operations Research and Technical Assistance

The Population Council’s INOPAL program begins operations research and technical assistance in Latin America and the Caribbean.

INOPAL Operations Research and Technical Assistance
1986 Biomedical Research on HIV

Population Council begins biomedical research on the sexual transmission of HIV, working toward the development of a microbicide. 

Biomedical Research on HIV
1987 USAID and National Research Council Award

Population Council receives the Science and Technology for Development Award from USAID and the National Research Council, “A special tribute to an institution whose use of science and technology over the past twenty-five years has dramatically benefited millions of people in developing countries.”

USAID and National Research Council Award
1988 Africa Operations Research and Technical Assistance

Population Council begins Africa Operations Research and Technical Assistance program. 

Africa Operations Research and Technical Assistance
1990 Quality-of-Care Framework

Population Council policy analyst Judith Bruce and Council demographer Anrudh Jain outline a framework for determining the quality of care provided in family planning and reproductive health services; today, this framework represents the standard for quality in international family planning.

Quality-of-Care Framework
1990 Norplant® Implant

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the Population Council’s Norplant® levonorgestrel contraceptive implant.

Norplant® Implant
1992 United Nations Population Award

Population Council receives United Nations Population Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to increasing the awareness of population questions and to their solution.

United Nations Population Award
1993 Margaret Catley-Carlson

Margaret Catley-Carlson becomes sixth Population Council president.

Margaret Catley-Carlson
1994 Vietnam Fellowships

Population Council launches the Vietnam reproductive health fellowship program, which supports 126 Vietnamese health professionals in obtaining master’s degrees abroad in public health or health-related social sciences before returning to Vietnam.

Vietnam Fellowships
1995 Africa Population and Health Research Center

With Rockefeller Foundation funding, Population Council opens the Africa Population and Health Research Center. 

Africa Population and Health Research Center
1996 Jadelle® Implant

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the Population Council’s Jadelle® two-rod levonorgestrel implant.

Jadelle® Implant
1997 Horizons Program on HIV and AIDS

Population Council launches Horizons, a USAID-funded global program of operations research on interventions in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Spanning a crucial decade in the universal fight against HIV and AIDS, Horizons made major contributions to the identification and development of best practices associated with the prevention and mitigation of HIV and AIDS in developing countries.

Horizons Program on HIV and AIDS
1998 Frontiers in Reproductive Health Program

Population Council establishes the USAID-funded Frontiers in Reproductive Health program, a global successor to the Council’s regional operations research projects aimed at improving reproductive health services. Frontiers improved people’s lives by enhancing services in family planning, safe motherhood, and other reproductive health areas.

Frontiers in Reproductive Health Program
1998 Survey of Adolescents in Egypt

Population Council collaborates on the first nationally representative survey of adolescents in Egypt, the findings of which inform national policy.

Survey of Adolescents in Egypt
1998 The Uncharted Passage

Population Council publishes The Uncharted Passage: Girls' Adolescence in the Developing World, transforming how policymakers, program managers, and others think about adolescent girls’ lives.

The Uncharted Passage
1999 Linda G. Martin

Linda G. Martin becomes seventh Population Council president.

Linda G. Martin
2000 Mirena® IUS

U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves Population Council’s Mirena®, a levonorgestrel-releasing intrauterine system.

Mirena® IUS
2001 Dendritic Immune System Cells

Population Council begins biomedical research on the critical role of dendritic immune system cells in HIV infection, work that shapes the Council’s approach to microbicide development. 

Dendritic Immune System Cells
2002 “Green Contraception”

Population Council biomedical researchers begin investigating the detrimental health effects of environmental toxicants that mimic hormones. This work led to the concept of “green contraception,” a commentary on which was published online in Contraception in 2012.

“Green Contraception”
2003 National Population Policy in Pakistan

Council researchers contribute to the formulation of Pakistan’s National Population Policy using new data on young people collected and analyzed by the Population Council.

National Population Policy in Pakistan
2004 Ishraq

The first 278 girls in rural Upper Egypt graduate from the Population Council's Ishraq program, then and now the only safe spaces program for poor, unschooled adolescent girls in Egypt.

2005 Peter J. Donaldson

Peter J. Donaldson becomes the Population Council’s eighth president. 

Peter J. Donaldson
2005 Growing Up Global

The U.S. National Academies publishes Growing Up Global, a seminal publication on adolescence in the developing world edited and co-authored by Population Council researchers, that provided a new conceptual framework for understanding the elements of healthy and productive adolescence and elevated attention to adolescents in population, development, and health policies in many countries. 

Growing Up Global
2006 Health Needs of Men Who Have Sex With Men

Population Council researchers use their ground-breaking findings to help Kenya’s National AIDS Control Council develop national strategies for effectively meeting the health needs of men who have sex with men (MSM). The Council has subsequently conducted similar pioneering research in Nigeria and Zambia.

Health Needs of Men Who Have Sex With Men
2007 Abortion in Mexico

Informed by the Population Council’s data on abortion-related knowledge, attitudes, and practices, Mexico City’s legislative assembly votes to permit first-trimester abortion to safeguard women’s health.

Abortion in Mexico
2007 FALAH in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the Population Council launches the Family Advancement for Life and Health (FALAH) project to promote healthy birth spacing. Over the next four years, the program will increase contraceptive use by 28 percent in socially conservative areas.

FALAH in Pakistan
2008 Sheldon Segal

Population Council and its distinguished scientist Sheldon Segal are awarded the Prix Galien USA Pro Bono Humanum Award for their role in developing implantable hormone delivery systems. Segal’s early work on vaginal rings led to promising new contraceptive and HIV prevention technologies for the future. 

Sheldon Segal
2008 Magnesium Sulfate

In Kano, Nigeria, a Population Council project introduces magnesium sulfate, the gold-standard treatment for deadly eclampsia and pre-eclampsia, into hospitals, reducing maternal deaths from eclampsia by two-thirds. The strategy has been adopted by the government of Nigeria as the national standard and is a model for other countries in the region.

Magnesium Sulfate
2009 Child Marriage

Population Council demonstrates the success of a program in Ethiopia to help girls at risk of forced early marriage or already married. Girls in the program are 90 percent less likely to get married between the ages of 10 and 14 than unenrolled girls. The Council is now studying this approach in other child marriage hot spots in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. 

Child Marriage
2010 Survey of Young People in Egypt

Population Council releases findings from the largest-ever national survey of young people in Egypt--a follow-up to the 1998 study--which shapes Egypt’s youth-focused Human Development Report.

Survey of Young People in Egypt
2010 It’s All One Curriculum

Population Council publishes It’s All One Curriculum, an innovative resource that places gender issues and human rights at the heart of sex and HIV education. The curriculum is being used by organizations in more than 150 countries around the world.

It’s All One Curriculum
2011 Antiretroviral/Zinc Combination Vaginal Gel

Population Council publishes data that demonstrate that an antiretroviral/zinc combination vaginal gel completely protects monkeys from infection with simian HIV for up to 24 hours. This gel offers hope for a new product to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV.

Antiretroviral/Zinc Combination Vaginal Gel
2012 Family Planning

Population Council continues its longstanding commitment to improving reproductive health and expanding access to family planning with the release of Family Planning Programs for the 21st Century: Rationale and Design, a book for policymakers and program managers that demonstrates the power of voluntary family planning programs to improve health, reduce poverty, and empower women.

Family Planning
2012 Long-Acting Reversible Contraception

The Council and its partners develop recommendations to increase access to highly effective, long-acting reversible contraception and accelerate progress toward meeting the Millennium Development Goals of universal access to reproductive health services.

Long-Acting Reversible Contraception