Dr. John J. ‘Jack’ Downes (1930–), the anesthesiologist-in-chief at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (1972–1996), has made numerous contributions to pediatric anesthesia and critical care medicine through a broad spectrum of research on chronic respiratory failure, status asthmaticus, postoperative risks of apnea in premature infants, and home-assisted mechanical ventilation. However, his defining moment was in January 1967, when The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia inaugurated its pediatric intensive care unit—the first of its kind in North America. During his tenure, he and his colleagues trained an entire generation of pediatric anesthesiologists and intensivists and set a standard of care and professionalism that continues to the present day. Based on an interview with Dr. Downes, this article reviews a career that advanced pediatric anesthesia and critical care medicine and describes the development of that first pediatric intensive care unit at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.