On This Day … 15 April [2022]

People (Deaths)

  • 1920 – Thomas Szasz, Hungarian-American psychiatrist and academic (d. 2012).
  • 1931 – Tomas Tranströmer, Swedish poet, translator, and psychologist Nobel Prize laureate (d. 2015).

Thomas Szasz

Thomas Stephen Szasz (15 April 1920 to 08 September 2012) was a Hungarian-American academic and psychiatrist. He served for most of his career as professor of psychiatry at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York.

A distinguished lifetime fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and a life member of the American Psychoanalytic Association, he was best known as a social critic of the moral and scientific foundations of psychiatry, as what he saw as the social control aims of medicine in modern society, as well as scientism. His books The Myth of Mental Illness (1961) and The Manufacture of Madness (1970) set out some of the arguments most associated with him.

Szasz argued throughout his career that mental illness is a metaphor for human problems in living, and that mental illnesses are not “illnesses” in the sense that physical illnesses are, and that except for a few identifiable brain diseases, there are “neither biological or chemical tests nor biopsy or necropsy findings for verifying DSM diagnoses.”

Szasz maintained throughout his career that he was not anti-psychiatry but rather that he opposed coercive psychiatry. He was a staunch opponent of civil commitment and involuntary psychiatric treatment, but he believed in and practiced psychiatry and psychotherapy between consenting adults.

Tomas Transtromer

Tomas Gösta Tranströmer (15 April 1931 to 26 March 2015) was a Swedish poet, psychologist and translator.

His poems captured the long Swedish winters, the rhythm of the seasons and the palpable, atmospheric beauty of nature. Tranströmer’s work is also characterised by a sense of mystery and wonder underlying the routine of everyday life, a quality which often gives his poems a religious dimension. He has been described as a Christian poet.

Tranströmer is acclaimed as one of the most important Scandinavian writers since the Second World War. Critics praised his poetry for its accessibility, even in translation. His poetry has been translated into over 60 languages. He was the recipient of the 1990 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, the 2004 International Nonino Prize, and the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature.

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