In this paper we introduce and describe in detail an addition to the UK's population-based resources for the investigation of biological and social influences on health across the life course and between generations: the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s study. We also provide an account of postwar Aberdeen when study members were growing up, report on findings of analyses of data from the original survey on which this study is based and its follow-up, assess the strengths and limitations of the study, and outline current and future research directions. This cohort comprises individuals born in Aberdeen, Scotland (UK) between 1950 and 1956, and is derived from 15 thousand subjects who took part in the Aberdeen Child Development Survey, a cross-sectional study of 'mental subnormality' (learning disability) in a population of all children who were attending Aberdeen primary schools in December 1962. Data collection included information on birthweight, gestational age, childhood height and weight, tests of cognition and behavioural disorder, and a range of multilevel socio-economic indicators. In 1998 we began the process of revitalising this cohort (now termed the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s study). We have been successful in ascertaining the current vital status and whereabouts of 98.5% of a target population of 12 150 subjects (6276 males, 5874 females) with full baseline data. The large majority (81%) of study participants still reside in Scotland and many (73%) have remained in the Grampian region which incorporates Aberdeen. At the present time, a total of almost 500 subjects are known to have died. Linkages to hospital admissions and other health endpoints captured through the Scottish Morbidity Records system have been completed. This includes an intergenerational linkage to approximately eight thousand deliveries in Scotland occurring to female members of the study population. A postal questionnaire to all traced surviving cohort members has also been distributed.