Art Campbell made pioneering contributions to the study of fertility and had a profound impact on the field of demography through his work at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Art first became familiar with population research in the summer of 1947, when he had a co-op job at the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. There, he got to know Kingsley Davis, Frank Notestein, Irene Taeuber, Dudley Kirk, Louise and Clyde Kiser, and Wilbert Moore. Kingsley Davis went to Columbia around that time, and Art went there for graduate work in sociology after getting his B.A. in political science from Antioch College in 1948.
During this period, Art also got to know Alfred Lotka, who worked at the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York City. When Lotka died in 1949, he bequeathed his 20-inch slide rule to Art. Art himself went to work for Met Life in 1950, writing articles for their Statistical Bulletin.
In 1952, Art joined the Foreign Manpower Research Office at the U.S. Bureau of the Census, where he worked with Jay Siegel. There, he produced demographic analyses for Yugloslavia, the USSR and China, including population projections and estimated fertility rates and age distributions. He also developed a new method for projecting mortality.
In 1956, Art joined the team working on the 1955 and 1960 Growth of American Families Studies at the Scripps Foundation (replacing Norm Ryder, who was leaving). He coauthored the influential volumes which reported on those studies, Family Planning, Sterility, and Population Growth (with Ronald Freedman and P.K. Whelpton, 1959) and Fertility and Family Planning in the United States (with P.K. Whelpton and John Patterson, 1966). These studies not only set the standard for later fertility studies, but also produced a wealth of knowledge about women’s family size intentions and their value in predicting fertility trends.
In 1964, he was recruited to head the Natality Statistics Branch at the National Center for Health Statistics. During the next four years, he launched the production of cohort fertility tables, worked on methods for measuring births to unmarried women, and helped to envision the National Survey of Family Growth.
Art’s next job was even more consequential for the field of population research. In 1968, he took on the role of Deputy Director of NICHD’s Center for Population Research, which had just been created by the Nixon administration with a mandate for demographic research as well as other aspects of reproductive biology and health. The Center was headed by Phil Corfman and was given $2M to get started. At that time, there was very little support for population research in the social sciences, despite the efforts of private foundations such as Milbank and Rockefeller, who could not match the federal government in the resources they could provide.
Art played a key role in organizing the Center and championed its rapidly expanding program of funding for demographic research. Early Center investments included the National Fertility Studies of 1965, 1970, and 1975, for which Art served as project officer. Over the subsequent years, the Center supported many more of demography’s major datasets along with its population centers, training programs, and countless research grants on topics such as family planning and fertility, family change, adolescent pregnancy, behavioral factors in the AIDS epidemic, and migration. Art’s advocacy in an otherwise medically-oriented center was critical to keeping the demography mandate safe and has benefited the field for over half a century.
During this time, Art continued his research on fertility and reproductive health, publishing books and articles on fertility intentions, contraceptive use, infertility, the timing of childbearing, low fertility, unintended pregnancy, teen childbearing and behavioral aspects of HIV. Art was a quintessential demographer, his work incorporating rigorous demographic analysis and a commitment to understanding the role of social and economic factors in demographic events. He served as President of the Population Association of America in 1973-74 and also served on its Board of Directors.
In his personal life, Art enjoyed life with his wife Nancy until her too-early death and raised two daughters. He was a true renaissance man. He loved music, read widely, painted, took courses at the Smithsonian, and, in a major undertaking, transformed an uninspired 1950's split level house in Bethesda with an Arts and Crafts style renovation. Among his colleagues, Art was deeply appreciated, not only as an outstanding scientist, but also for his droll sense of humor, calm demeanor, kindness, modesty, and understated management style.
Art retired from the NIH in 1994 and went on to dive ever more deeply into his many interests. He passed away peacefully on March 10, 2020, at age 96, leaving his family and all of us who knew and loved him proud to have been part of his life.