On This Day … 08 August

People (Births)

  • 1879 – Bob Smith, American physician and surgeon, co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous (d. 1950).

Bob Smith

Robert Holbrook Smith (08 August 1879 to 16 November 1950), also known as Dr. Bob, was an American physician and surgeon who founded Alcoholics Anonymous with Bill Wilson (more commonly known as Bill W.).

Smith began drinking at college attending Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Early on he noticed that he could recover from drinking bouts quicker and easier than his classmates and that he never had headaches, which caused him to believe he was an alcoholic from the time he began drinking. Smith was a member of Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity at Dartmouth. After graduation in 1902, he worked for three years selling hardware in Boston, Chicago, and Montreal and continued drinking heavily. He then returned to school to study medicine at the University of Michigan. By this time drinking had begun to affect him to the point where he began missing classes. His drinking caused him to leave school, but he returned and passed his examinations for his sophomore year. He transferred to Rush Medical College, but his alcoholism worsened to the point that his father was summoned to try to halt his downward trajectory. But his drinking increased and after a dismal showing during final examinations, the university required that he remain for two extra quarters and remain sober during that time as a condition of graduating.

After graduation, Smith became a hospital intern, and for two years he was able to stay busy enough to refrain from heavy drinking. He married Anne Robinson Ripley on 25 January 1915, and opened up his own office in Akron, Ohio, specialising in colorectal surgery and returned to heavy drinking. Recognising his problem, he checked himself into more than a dozen hospitals and sanitariums in an effort to stop his drinking. He was encouraged by the passage of Prohibition in 1919, but soon discovered that the exemption for medicinal alcohol, and bootleggers, could supply more than enough to continue his excessive drinking. For the next 17 years his life revolved around how to subvert his wife’s efforts to stop his drinking and obtain the alcohol he craved while trying to hold together a medical practice in order to support his family and his drinking.

Meeting Bill Wilson

In January 1933, Anne Smith attended a lecture by Frank Buchman, the founder of the Oxford Group. For the next two years he and Smith attended local meetings of the group in an effort to solve his alcoholism, but recovery eluded him until he met Bill Wilson on 12 May 1935. Wilson was an alcoholic who had learned how to stay sober, thus far only for some limited amounts of time, through the Oxford Group in New York, and was close to discovering long-term sobriety by helping other alcoholics. Wilson was in Akron on business that had proven unsuccessful and he was in fear of relapsing. Recognising the danger, he made inquiries about any local alcoholics he could talk to and was referred to Smith by Henrietta Seiberling, one of the leaders of the Akron Oxford Group. After talking to Wilson, Smith stopped drinking and invited Wilson to stay at his home. He relapsed almost a month later while attending a professional convention in Atlantic City. Returning to Akron on 09 June, he was given a few drinks by Wilson to avoid delirium tremens. He drank one beer the next morning to settle his nerves so he could perform an operation, which proved to be the last alcoholic drink he would ever have. The date, 10 June 1935, is celebrated as the anniversary of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Final Years

Smith was called the “Prince of Twelfth Steppers” by Wilson because he helped more than 5000 alcoholics before his death. He was able to stay sober from 10 June 1935, until his death in 1950 from colon cancer. He is buried at the Mount Peace Cemetery in Akron, Ohio.

On This Day … 10 June

Events

  • 1935 – Dr. Robert Smith takes his last drink, and Alcoholics Anonymous is founded in Akron, Ohio, United States, by him and Bill Wilson.

Dr. Robert Smith

Robert Holbrook Smith (08 August 1879 to 16 November 1950), also known as Dr. Bob, was an American physician and surgeon who founded Alcoholics Anonymous with Bill Wilson (more commonly known as Bill W.).

Family and Early Life

Smith was born in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, where he was raised, to Susan A. (Holbrook) and Walter Perrin Smith. His parents took him to religious services four times a week, and in response he determined he would never attend religious services when he grew up. He graduated from St Johnsbury Academy in 1898, having met his future wife Anne Robinson Ripley at a dance there.

Education, Marriage, Work, and Alcoholism

Smith began drinking at college attending Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Early on he noticed that he could recover from drinking bouts quicker and easier than his classmates and that he never had headaches, which caused him to believe he was an alcoholic from the time he began drinking. Smith was a member of Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity at Dartmouth. After graduation in 1902, he worked for three years selling hardware in Boston, Chicago, and Montreal and continued drinking heavily. He then returned to school to study medicine at the University of Michigan. By this time drinking had begun to affect him to the point where he began missing classes. His drinking caused him to leave school, but he returned and passed his examinations for his sophomore year. He transferred to Rush Medical College, but his alcoholism worsened to the point that his father was summoned to try to halt his downward trajectory. But his drinking increased and after a dismal showing during final examinations, the university required that he remain for two extra quarters and remain sober during that time as a condition of graduating.

After graduation, Smith became a hospital intern, and for two years he was able to stay busy enough to refrain from heavy drinking. He married Anne Robinson Ripley on January 25, 1915, and opened up his own office in Akron, Ohio, specialising in colorectal surgery and returned to heavy drinking. Recognising his problem, he checked himself into more than a dozen hospitals and sanitariums in an effort to stop his drinking. He was encouraged by the passage of Prohibition in 1919, but soon discovered that the exemption for medicinal alcohol, and bootleggers, could supply more than enough to continue his excessive drinking. For the next 17 years his life revolved around how to subvert his wife’s efforts to stop his drinking and obtain the alcohol he craved while trying to hold together a medical practice in order to support his family and his drinking.

Meeting Bill Wilson

In January 1933, Anne Smith attended a lecture by Frank Buchman, the founder of the Oxford Group. For the next two years she and Smith attended local meetings of the group in an effort to solve his alcoholism, but recovery eluded him until he met Bill Wilson on 12 May 1935. Wilson was an alcoholic who had learned how to stay sober, thus far only for some limited amounts of time, through the Oxford Group in New York, and was close to discovering long-term sobriety by helping other alcoholics. Wilson was in Akron on business that had proven unsuccessful and he was in fear of relapsing. Recognising the danger, he made inquiries about any local alcoholics he could talk to and was referred to Smith by Henrietta Seiberling, one of the leaders of the Akron Oxford Group. After talking to Wilson, Smith stopped drinking and invited Wilson to stay at his home. He relapsed almost a month later while attending a professional convention in Atlantic City. Returning to Akron on 09 June, he was given a few drinks by Wilson to avoid delirium tremens. He drank one beer the next morning to settle his nerves so he could perform an operation, which proved to be the last alcoholic drink he would ever have. The date, 10 June 1935, is celebrated as the anniversary of the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Final Years

Smith was called the “Prince of Twelfth Steppers” by Wilson because he helped more than 5000 alcoholics before his death. He was able to stay sober from 10 June 1935, until his death in 1950 from colon cancer. He is buried at the Mount Peace Cemetery in Akron, Ohio.

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international mutual aid fellowship with the stated purpose of enabling its members to “stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.” AA is nonprofessional, non-denominational, self-supporting, and apolitical. Its only membership requirement is a desire to stop drinking. The AA programme of recovery is set forth in the Twelve Steps.

AA was founded in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, when one alcoholic, Bill Wilson, talked to another alcoholic, Bob Smith, about the nature of alcoholism and a possible solution. With the help of other early members, the book Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered From Alcoholism was written in 1939. Its title became the name of the organisation and is today commonly referred to as “The Big Book”. AA’s initial Twelve Traditions were introduced in 1946 to help the fellowship be stable and unified while disengaged from “outside issues” and influences.

The Traditions recommend that members remain anonymous in public media, altruistically help other alcoholics, and that AA groups avoid official affiliations with other organisations. They also advise against dogma and coercive hierarchies. Subsequent fellowships such as Narcotics Anonymous have adapted the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions to their respective primary purposes.

AA membership has since spread internationally “across diverse cultures holding different beliefs and values”, including geopolitical areas resistant to grassroots movements. As of 2016, close to two million people worldwide are estimated to be members of AA.

On This Day … 11 November

Events

  • 1934 – Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, takes his last drink and enters treatment for the final time.

People (Deaths)

  • 1966 – Augusta Fox Bronner, American psychologist, specialist in juvenile psychology (b. 1881).
  • 1979 – James J. Gibson, American psychologist and author (b. 1904).

Bill Wilson

You can find an outline of Bill Wilson here.

Augusta Fox Bronner

Augusta Fox Bronner (22 July 1881 to 11 December 1966) was an American psychologist, best known for her work in juvenile psychology. She co-directed the first child guidance clinic, and her research shaped psychological theories about the causes behind child delinquency, emphasizing the need to focus on social and environmental factors over inherited traits.

James J. Gibson

James Jerome Gibson (27 January 1904 to 11 December 1979), was an American psychologist and one of the most important contributors to the field of visual perception. Gibson challenged the idea that the nervous system actively constructs conscious visual perception, and instead promoted ecological psychology, in which the mind directly perceives environmental stimuli without additional cognitive construction or processing.

A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked him as the 88th most cited psychologist of the 20th century, tied with John Garcia, David Rumelhart, Louis Leon Thurstone, Margaret Floy Washburn, and Robert S. Woodworth.

On This Day … 26 November

People (Births)

  • 1895 – Bill W., American activist, co-founded Alcoholics Anonymous (d. 1971).
  • 1936 – Margaret Boden, English computer scientist and psychologist.

People (Deaths)

  • 1987 – J. P. Guilford, American psychologist and academic (b. 1897).

Bill Wilson

William Griffith Wilson (26 November 1895 to 24 January 1971), also known as Bill Wilson or Bill W., was the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

AA is an international mutual aid fellowship with about 2 million members worldwide belonging to approximately 10,000 groups, associations, organizations, cooperatives, and fellowships of alcoholics helping other alcoholics achieve and maintain sobriety.

Following AA’s Twelfth Tradition of anonymity, Wilson is commonly known as “Bill W.” or “Bill.” In order to communicate among one another, members of “AA” will often ask those who appear to be suffering or having a relapse from alcoholism if they are “friends of Bill”. Although this question can be confusing, because “Bill” is a common name, it does provide a means of establishing a rapport with those who are familiar with the saying and in need of help. After Wilson’s death in 1971, and amidst much controversy within the fellowship, his full name was included in obituaries by journalists who were unaware of the significance of maintaining anonymity within the organisation.

Wilson’s sobriety from alcohol, which he maintained until his death, began 11 December 1934. In 1955 Wilson turned over control of AA to a board of trustees. Wilson died of emphysema complicated by pneumonia in 1971. In 1999 Time listed him as “Bill W.: The Healer” in the Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century.

Margaret Boden

Margaret Ann Boden, OBE, ScD, FBA (born 26 November 1936) is a Research Professor of Cognitive Science in the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex, where her work embraces the fields of artificial intelligence, psychology, philosophy, and cognitive and computer science.

Boden was appointed lecturer in philosophy at the University of Birmingham in 1959. She became a Harkness Fellow at Harvard University from 1962 to 1964, then returned to Birmingham for a year before moving to a lectureship in philosophy and psychology at Sussex University in 1965, where she was later appointed as Reader then Professor in 1980. She was awarded a PhD in social psychology (specialism: cognitive studies) by Harvard in 1968.

She credits reading “Plans and the Structure of Behaviour” by George A. Miller with giving her the realisation that computer programming approaches could be applied to the whole of psychology.

Boden became Dean of the School of Social Sciences in 1985. Two years later she became the founding Dean of the University of Sussex’s School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences (COGS), precursor of the university’s current Department of Informatics. Since 1997 she has been a Research Professor of Cognitive Science in the Department of Informatics, where her work encompasses the fields of artificial intelligence, psychology, philosophy, and cognitive and computer science.

Boden became a Fellow of the British Academy in 1983 and served as its vice-president from 1989 to 1991.[9] Boden is a member of the editorial board for The Rutherford Journal.

In 2001 Boden was awarded an OBE for her services in the field of cognitive science. The same year she was also awarded an honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Sussex. She also received an honorary degree from the University of Bristol. A PhD Scholarship that is awarded annually by the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex was named in her honour.

J.P. Guildford

Joy Paul Guilford (07 March 1897 to 26 November 1987) was an American psychologist best remembered for his psychometric study of human intelligence, including the distinction between convergent and divergent production.

Developing the views of L.L. Thurstone, Guilford rejected Charles Spearman’s view that intelligence could be characterised in a single numerical parameter. He proposed that three dimensions were necessary for accurate description: operations, content, and products. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Guilford as the 27th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.