On This Day … 07 April

People (Deaths)

  • 1999 ā€“ Heinz Lehmann, German-Canadian psychiatrist and academic (b. 1911).

Heinz Lehmann

Heinz Edgar Lehmann, OC FRSC (17 July 17 1911 to 07 April 1999) was a German-born Canadian psychiatrist best known for his use of chlorpromazine for the treatment of schizophrenia in 1950s and “truly the father of modern psychopharmacology.”

Early Life

Born in Berlin, Germany, he was educated at the University of Freiburg, the University of Marburg, the University of Vienna, and the University of Berlin. He emigrated to Canada in 1937.

Hospital Work in Canada

In 1947, he was appointed the clinical director of Montreal’s Douglas Hospital. From 1971 to 1975, he was the chair of the McGill University Department of Psychiatry. He was also a humane lecturer in psychiatry in 1952, and was able to give empathetic lectures on the plight of people suffering from anxiety, depression obsessions, paranoia etc. No one to that time had been able to understand or help schizophrenic patients, who filled mental hospitals around the world, so when chlorpromazine showed some promise he helped to promote it in North America and start the drug revolution. He was ahead of his time in that he supported research in the use of the active ingredient psilocybin to alleviate anxiety.

Le Dain Commission

From 1969 to 1972, he was one of the five members of the Le Dain Commission, a royal commission appointed in Canada to study the non-medical use of drugs. He was an advocate for decriminalisation of marijuana.

DSM Work

In 1973, he was a member of the Nomenclature Committee of the American Psychiatric Association that decided to drop homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, i.e. to depathologise it.

Honours and Awards

In 1970 he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and, in 1976, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1998.

Heinz Lehmann Award

In 1999, the Canadian College of Neuropsychopharmacology established the Heinz Lehmann Award in his honour, given in recognition of outstanding contributions to research in neuropsychopharmacology in Canada.

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