NIEHS Director, 1966-1971

Paul Kotin, M.D., 1916-2008, was the founding director of NIEHS, serving from 1966 until 1971.

Kotin was known for the scientific integrity he displayed throughout his varied career in medical practice, research, administration, education, and industrial medicine.

A pathologist by training, Kotin led the Division of Cancer Etiology at the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, which he joined in 1962. In 1966, he was named director of what was then called the NIH Division of Environmental Health Sciences. A year earlier, with colleague William Payne, Kotin had started planning for this new work. He wanted to address what he called an urgent need for toxicity studies “following long-term exposure to low levels of noxious environmental agents... to establish a scientific basis for protection of the public.”

Under Kotin's direction, the new division achieved official institute status in 1969. NIEHS became the ninth institute in NIH. His comprehensive vision for the new institute was a foundation for its use of innovative, multidisciplinary methodologies. He championed vigorous extramural research programs, relying on close relationships within NIH and with major universities, especially those in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina.

His hope that NIEHS could preserve the rural aspect of the area where the campus was eventually built proved influential in its design and present character. As director, Kotin made early appointments, such as Scientific Director Hans Falk, M.D., that helped set the tone for scientific excellence that would come to characterize the institute. His vision also laid groundwork for the institute’s growth into a definitive source of public health information about environmental health sciences.

Kotin was widely regarded as an international expert on environmentally caused lung diseases, especially those caused by toxic substances such as asbestos and beryllium. He served on many committees and advisory boards as member or chair. His awards for contributions to public health include the Superior Service Award and Distinguished Service Award from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and the Knudsen Award from the American Occupational Medicine Association.

Kotin's long career began in 1939 after his graduation with a medical degree from the University of Illinois. After completing a pathology residency at the Deaconess Hospital in Chicago, he served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps from 1941 to 1946 in the Pacific Theater and in California. After the war, he was in private practice for two years before going to work at Los Angeles County Hospital and the University of Southern California, where he was the Paul Pierce Professor of Pathology.

He spent nearly a decade in different roles with NIH. In 1971 after leaving NIEHS, he accepted an appointment at Temple University as dean of the School of Medicine, vice president for Health Sciences, and provost. In 1974, he joined the Johns-Manville Corporation in Denver as senior vice president for Health, Safety and Environment.

Even after retirement in 1981, Kotin continued business consulting and public service activities. From 1988 to 1990, he served on a National Academy of Sciences committee that provided oversight of the Department of Energy's management of the U.S. nuclear stockpile.

Kotin passed away May 12, 2008, age 91, in Laguna Beach, California.