From Princeton University: Thomas James Trussell (1949-2018)


James Trussell, a long-standing editor and contributor to Contraceptive Technology, died on December 26, 2018, after a brief illness.

James Trussell first came to Princeton as a graduate student in the Department of Economics in 1973 and completed his Ph.D. in 1975. He was immediately hired as assistant professor of economics and spent his entire academic career on the Princeton faculty. In 1978, he was jointly appointed in the Woodrow Wilson School as assistant professor of economics and public affairs and achieved the rank of associate professor in 1980 and professor in 1983.

Throughout his career, James was devoted to the Office of Population Research (OPR), serving as a faculty research associate from 1975 to 2015 and as OPR director from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2002 to 2011. He also made many administrative contributions to the Woodrow Wilson School, with more than a dozen years of service as associate dean, two separate stints as acting dean, and multiple directorships of the school’s MPA and Ph.D. programs.

James was born in Columbus, Georgia. After completing his B.A. in mathematics at Davidson College in 1971, he entered the economics program at Nuffield College at the University of Oxford, where he published two books before completing his B.Phil. in economics in 1973. The Loving Book, coauthored with Steve Chandler and published by World Publishing in 1972, sought to develop a new understanding of birth control and human sexuality. Women in Need, also published in 1972 and coauthored with Robert A. Hatcher, proposed a then-revolutionary plan for family planning to subdue the proliferation of unwanted childbearing. Other work conducted while at Oxford includes publications on the effects of abortion policy and the cost-effectiveness of different birth control methods.

After arriving at Princeton, James began his long record of contribution to the study of demographic methods and mathematical models of population, first under the direction of Ansley Coale, then director of the Office of Population Research, and later as a collaborator, publishing a series of seminal papers that developed model schedules of fertility and techniques for the indirect estimation of birth rates given incomplete data. He went on to publish widely cited papers on methods for estimating mortality, age at first marriage, the economic consequences of teenage childbearing, spline interpolation of demographic data, natural fertility, and contraceptive failure. He also contributed importantly to substantive work on the demography of Afghanistan, China, Egypt, Panama, and the Philippines; the physiology of menarche; patterns of marital dissolution; sterility; birth spacing; stable population theory; and historical demography.

Over time, James focused his interests more squarely on the topics of emergency contraception, contraceptive failure, and the cost-effectiveness of contraception, publishing a series of impactful papers in leading scientific journals such as Family Planning PerspectivesStudies in Family PlanningInternational Family Planning PerspectivesObstetrics and GynecologyContraceptionAmerican Journal of Public HealthAdvances in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and The New England Journal of Medicine. He authored more than 350 scientific publications in the areas of reproductive health and demographic methodology and is a fellow of the Population Council, the Guttmacher Institute, and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. He was also an honorary fellow at the University of Edinburgh and a visiting professor at the Hull York Medical School in England.

In the course of his long career, James made many public contributions to the nation’s service and the service of all nations. At the National Academy of Sciences, he contributed to the work of the Committee on HIV Prevention Strategies in the United States, the Committee on Antiprogestins, the Committee on National Statistics, and the Committee on Population, as well as the Panel on Data and Research Priorities for Arresting AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa, Panel on Monitoring the Social Impact of the AIDS Epidemic, Panel on Census Methodology, the Panel on Census Requirements in the Year 2000 and Beyond, Panel on the 1990 Census, Panel on Immigration Statistics, Panel on Small Area Estimation, Panel on the 1980 Census, and the Panel on Latin America. He also served for seven years on the Council of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (1998–2005).

In addition to his professional service and research accomplishments, James played a leading role in promoting the wider accessibility of emergency contraception to women as an important step in helping them reduce the risk of unintended pregnancy. He maintained an emergency contraception website ( and designed and launched a toll-free emergency contraception hotline (1-888-NOT-2-LATE). He was a member of the National Medical Committee of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and a member of the board of directors of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Society of Family Planning, the International Federation of Professional Abortion and Contraception Associates, and the Women on Web Foundation.

In 2015, James retired from Princeton as the Charles and Marie Robertson Professor of Public and International Affairs but remained active in the field of reproductive health, serving as deputy editor of Contraception and continuing to publish widely in that journal and other journals of family planning and reproductive health. In 2012, James was honored with the Felicia Stewart Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception and the American Society for Emergency Contraception.