Harry A. Waisman Memorial Lecture

About the Lecture Series:

The Harry A. Waisman Memorial Lectures are presented by the Friends of the Waisman Center in conjunction with Waisman Center faculty and staff. These lectures feature outstanding scholars in the behavioral and biomedical fields.

Harry WaismanHarry Waisman received all four of his degrees from the University of Wisconsin: BS in 1935; MS and PhD in biochemistry in 1937 and 1939; and MD in 1947. He served his internship and residency in pediatrics at the University of Illinois. He completed postdoctoral training at UW-Madison and the University of Illinois where he was faculty from 1950-1952.

Waisman joined the University of Wisconsin faculty in 1952 as an associate professor of pediatrics and was promoted to professor in 1958. He became director of the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Memorial Laboratories for research in developmental disabilities in 1963. The laboratories grew from an initial grant from the family of President John F. Kennedy, which Waisman was largely instrumental in obtaining.

In association with Harry Harlow and the UW Primate Laboratory, Waisman conducted groundbreaking research on phenylketonuria (PKU). Waisman’s research centered chiefly on this hereditary disease, in which an inborn metabolic error results in an accumulation of the amino acid phenylalanine and its derivatives, causing developmental disabilities. When detected early enough by a simple test, PKU can be treated effectively with a low-phenylalanine diet. Waisman was an advocate for PKU testing during legislative battles in the 1960s.

Prior to his work, Waisman was involved in studies related to cancer and leukemia in children. He co-authored a book with Conrad A. Elvehjem, a fellow biochemist and the former president of UW-Madison.

Waisman was a member of numerous professional and honorary societies and was awarded many national honors for his pediatrics work. He was one of the driving forces in the establishment of a multidisciplinary center at UW-Madison dedicated to the study of human development and developmental disabilities. He died unexpectedly during surgery in 1971, two years before the Waisman Center opened.

  • 1977—George Tarjan, UCLA
    “Mental Retardation: Some Predictions”
  • 1978—Edward Zigler, Yale University
    “The Unrealized Potential of Mentally Retarded Individuals”
  • 1978—Roscoe O. Brady, National Institutes of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke
    “Enzyme Replacement Therapy for Genetic Disorders: Current and Future Strategies”
  • 1979—James J. Gallagher, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
    “The Search for Theories in Child Development”
  • 1979—Richard L. Sidman, Harvard University
    “Genetic Dissection of Mammalian Brain Development”
  • 1980—Burton Blatt, Syracuse University
    “The Conquest of Invented Diseases and the Future for People with Special Needs”
  • 1980—George K. Aghajanian, Yale University
    “The Locus Coeruleus: From Single Cell to Clinic”
  • 1981—Harvey A. Stevens, Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    “International Year of Disabled Persons, 1981…To Better Serve Mentally Retarded People Everywhere”
  • 1981—Joseph M. Berg, University of Toronto
    “Biomedical Factors in the Causation of Mental Retardation”
  • 1982—Keith G. Scott, University of Miami
    “Infants at Risk for Handicaps: The Causation and Ameliorative Role of Social Factors”
  • 1982—Leon E. Rosenberg, Yale University
    “Genes and Vitamins: Sense and Nonsense”
  • 1983—Tenth Year Anniversary Dedication of the Waisman Center
    George Tarjan, University of California, Los Angeles
    “The Last Ten Years–Where We’ve Been”
    Park Gerald, Harvard University
    “The Next Ten Years—Where We’re Going”
  • 1984—Stanley S. Herr, University of Maryland
    “The Future of Advocacy for Persons with Developmental Disabilities”
  • 1986—Robert B. Edgerton, University of California, Los Angeles
    “Culture and Mental Retardation Reconsidered”
  • 1987—Sharon Landesman, University of North Carolina
    “Normalization and Deinstitutionalization from a Research Perspective”
  • 1988—Alfred A. Baumeister, Vanderbilt University
    “New Morbidity: Poverty and Handicapping Conditions in America”
  • 1989—Edward R.B. McCabe, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston
    “Molecular Genetic Investigations of Mental Retardation”
  • 1990—Michael J. Guralnick, University of Washington, Seattle
    “The Effectiveness of Early Intervention”
  • 1991—Barry Wolf, Medical College of Virginia in Richmond
    “Biotinidase Deficiency: A Novel Vitamin Recycling Defect”
  • 1992—Vanja A. Holm, University of Washington, Seattle
    “Prader-Willi Syndrome 1992: Medical, Behavioral, and Social Aspects”
  • 1994—Ann P. Streissguth, University of Washington
    “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: A 20-Year Study of the Enduring Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure”
  • 1996—Randi J. Hagerman, University of Colorado
    “Molecular Clinical Correlations and Treatment Issues in Fragile X Syndrome”
  • 1997—Ira T. Lott, University of California–Irvine
    “Aging and Dementia in Down Syndrome: Implications for Neurodevelopment”
  • 1998—William T. Greenough, University of Illinois
    “The Effects of Experience and Learning on the Structure and Function of the Brain”
  • 2004—Ami Klin, Yale University School of Medicine
    “Eye-Tracking Studies of Social Visual Engagement in Individuals with Autism”
  • 2005—Mark Lewis, University of Florida
    “Restricted, Repetitive Behavior in Developmental Disorders: Clinical and Pre-Clinical Findings”
  • 2006—Allan Reiss, Stanford University
    “Interdisciplinary Approaches for Studying Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Linking Genes, Brain, Behavior and Environment”
  • 2008—Mark Batshaw, George Washington University
    “Urea Cycle Disorders: A Rare Genetic Disorder Causing Developmental Disabilities”
  • 2008—Scott Pomeroy, Harvard Medical School
    “Developmental Derangements that Promote the Growth of Embryonal Brain Tumors”
  • 2010—Nathan Fox, University of Maryland
    “The Effects of Early Psychosocial Deprivation on Brain and Behavior: Findings From the Bucharest Early Intervention Study”
  • 2010—Alan Percy, University of Alabama
    “Rett Syndrome and Autism: Exploring Possible Linkages”
  • 2012—Brad Schlaggar, Washington University School of Medicine
    “Investigating the Development of the Brain’s Functional Network Architecture”
  • 2012—Vittorio Gallo, George Washington University School of Medicine
    “White Matter Injury in the Premature Brian: Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms”
  • 2013—Robert D. Steiner, Marshfield Clinic
    “Hens to Hedgehogs: Smith Lemli Opitz Syndrome and Related Disorders”
  • 2015—Steven Walkley, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
    “Lysosomal Disease at Half Century: A New Era Emerges”
  • 2016—Nathaniel Heintz, The Rockefeller University
    “Circuits, Cells and CNS Complexity: The Molecular Genetics of the Mammalian Brain”
  • 2017—Mark Tuszynski, University of California, San Diego
    “Stem Cells for Spinal Cord Injury”
  • 2019, Spring—Mustafa Sahin, Boston Children’s Hospital
    “Mechanism-Based Biomarker and Treatment Trials in Tuberous Sclerosis”
  • 2022—Stephen W. Scherer, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids); University of Toronto
    “Understanding the Composition of the Human Genome for Studies of Genetic Disease”