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From The Maryland Psychiatric Society: Celebrating 50 Years, pp 36, 42, Maryland Psych. Soc., Baltimore, 2000.


Lee C. Park, MD

Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, Johns Hopkins Hopkins Hospital opened in 1889, and the School of Medicine opened in 1893. The first Superintendent of Johns Hopkins Hospital was Henry M. Hurd, M.D., for whom Hurd Hall was named. He began his career as a general practitioner and subsequently became the first Superintendent of Eastern Michigan Asylum in Pontiac. He was also Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and continued to write in his field, including a four-volume history of U.S and Canadian mental hospitals.

Henry Phipps, a trustee of Johns Hopkins Hospital, contributed funds for the construction of the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic. When completed in 1913 it was the third such university facility in the United States. Adolf Meyer, M.D., was Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Clinic. Meyer, originally a native of Zurich, Switzerland, and a pathologist, had been the Director of the Pathological Institute of the New York State Hospitals for the Insane and a faculty member at Cornell.

Adolf Meyer, the father of modern American psychiatry, was a revolutionary force in theory and in practice. He took the initiative in shifting the view of mental illness as a chronic disease requiring custodial care, to a powerfully dynamic view that each mentally ill individual became ill in a particular and personal life context that must be understood in order to effect improvement and cure. He required his residents to write up a complete life and medical history for each patient and to present it to the faculty and other residents for discussion before constructing formal theories, treatment plans and conclusions. He coined the term “psychobiology” which emphasized his belief that mind and body were integrated, each dynamically influencing the other. He also continued his neuroanatomical research. Meyer was a Founding Member of the American Psychoanalytical Association at an organizational meeting in Baltimore in May, 1911. He moved psychiatry toward the mainstream of medical education, initiated psychiatric social service, and introduced concepts about mental hygiene (another term he coined) and psychiatric nursing. (His wife was one of the first psychiatric social workers.) He published prolifically, and his ideas and his facilities brought psychiatry at Johns Hopkins to world renown. At one time, residents who had trained under him held about 10% of the faculty positions in psychiatry in the United States.

Other pioneers who began their work at Johns Hopkins during the era of Adolf Meyer included Leo Kanner in Child Psychiatry, W. Horsley Gantt at the Pavlovian Laboratory, and J.B. Watson and Curt Richter in Behaviorism and Psychobiology.

In 1982, the actualization of Meyer’s vision for the integration of studies of mind and brain was realized when the department of Psychiatry moved into a newly constructed building designed to be a home for Psychiatry, Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Neuroscience. The building is appropriately named the Adolf Meyer Center.

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