Distinguished Autism Researcher Dies

A child neurologist, Isabelle Rapin popularized the notion that autism was part of a spectrum of disorders.

By | June 13, 2017

Isabelle RapinALBERT EINSTEIN COLLEGE OF MEDICINEIsabelle Rapin, a child neurologist who spent her long career advancing the science behind autism spectrum disorder, died of pneumonia last month at age 89 (May 24).

“Calling her one of the founding mothers of autism is very appropriate,” Thomas Frazier II, a clinical psychologist and chief science officer of Autism Speaks, an advocacy group for people with autism and their families, tells The New York Times. “With the gravity she carried, she moved us into a modern understanding of autism.”

Rapin was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, and attended medical school at the University of Lausanne. She moved to Manhattan in 1953, where she worked at both Bellevue Hospital and Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital before taking a position at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.

During her long career, Rapin focused on communication disorders in children and made a number of significant contributions to the field of autism research, such as advancing the understanding of autism’s biological underpinnings and popularizing the notion that autism was part of a spectrum of disorders. “She called autism ‘a disorder of the developing brain’—a provocative idea early in her career,” Sylvie Goldman, a professor at Columbia University Medical Center, writes in Spectrum News. “Yet she emphasized that autism is a lifelong condition that affects children and adults alike.”

In addition to being a distinguished researcher, Rapin was also a dedicated mentor to other researchers. “There was no limit to what she was willing to do for her students,” Goldman writes in Spectrum.

“She was surrounded by intellectual giants, who were all men, and she always paid them deference,” Mark Mehler, chairman of the department of neurology at Einstein and a former student of Rapin, told The New York Times. “I don’t know if she ever realized that she was very much their equal.”

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo

Popular Now

  1. Running on Empty
    Features Running on Empty

    Regularly taking breaks from eating—for hours or days—can trigger changes both expected, such as in metabolic dynamics and inflammation, and surprising, as in immune system function and cancer progression.

  2. Athletes’ Microbiomes Differ from Nonathletes
  3. Mutation Linked to Longer Life Span in Men
  4. Gut Feeling
    Daily News Gut Feeling

    Sensory cells of the mouse intestine let the brain know if certain compounds are present by speaking directly to gut neurons via serotonin.

AAAS