On This Day … 13 June

People (Births)

  • 1809 – Heinrich Hoffmann, German psychiatrist and author (d. 1894).
  • 1894 – Leo Kanner, Ukrainian-American psychiatrist and physician (d. 1981).
  • 1931 – Irvin D. Yalom, American psychotherapist and academic.

Heinrich Hoffmann

Heinrich Hoffmann (13 June 1809 to 20 September 1894) was a German psychiatrist, who also wrote some short works including Der Struwwelpeter, an illustrated book portraying children misbehaving.

Hoffmann worked for a pauper’s clinic and had a private practice. He also taught anatomy at the Senckenberg Foundation. None of this paid very well, and when the Frankfurt lunatic asylum’s previous doctor (who was a friend of his) retired in 1851, he was eager to take the post even though he had no expertise in psychiatry. This changed quickly, as his later competent publications in the field show. Hoffmann portrays himself as a caring, humane psychiatrist, who strove to be the sunshine in the life of his miserable patients. His gregarious personality may well have been popular with many of them. His statistical compilations show that up to 40% of the people with acute cases of what would today be called schizophrenia were discharged after a few weeks or months and stayed in remission for years and perhaps permanently. Always a skeptic, Hoffmann voices doubts whether this was due to any therapy he may have given them. Much of his energy from 1851 onwards went into campaigning for a new, modern asylum building with gardens in the city’s green belt. He was successful and the new clinic was built at the site of today’s Frankfurt University’s Humanities campus (The original building was demolished in the 1920s).

Leo Kanner

Leo Kanner (13 June 1894 to 03 April 1981) was an Ukrainian American psychiatrist, physician, and social activist best known for his work related to autism. Before working at the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Kanner practiced as a physician in Germany and in South Dakota. In 1943, Kanner published his landmark paper Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact, describing 11 children who were highly intelligent but displayed “a powerful desire for aloneness” and “an obsessive insistence on persistent sameness.” He named their condition “early infantile autism,” which is now known as autism spectrum disorder. Kanner was in charge of developing the first child psychiatry clinic in the United States and later served as the Chief of Child Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is one of the co-founders of The Children’s Guild, a non-profit organisation serving children, families and child-serving organisations throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C., and dedicated to “Transforming how America Cares for and Educates its Children and Youth.” He is widely considered one of the most influential American psychiatrists of the 20th century.

Irvin D. Yalon

Irvin David Yalom (born 13 June 1931) is an American existential psychiatrist who is emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, as well as author of both fiction and nonfiction.

After graduating with a BA from George Washington University in 1952 and a Doctor of Medicine from Boston University School of Medicine in 1956 he went on to complete his internship at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and his residency at the Phipps Clinic of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and completed his training in 1960. After two years of Army service at Tripler General Hospital in Honolulu, Yalom began his academic career at Stanford University. He was appointed to the faculty in 1963 and promoted over the following years, being granted tenure in 1968. Soon after this period he made some of his most lasting contributions by teaching about group psychotherapy and developing his model of existential psychotherapy.

His writing on existential psychology centres on what he refers to as the four “givens” of the human condition: isolation, meaninglessness, mortality and freedom, and discusses ways in which the human person can respond to these concerns either in a functional or dysfunctional fashion.

In 1970, Yalom published The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, speaking about the research literature around group psychotherapy and the social psychology of small group behavior. This work explores how individuals function in a group context, and how members of group therapy gain from his participation group.

In addition to his scholarly, non-fiction writing, Yalom has produced a number of novels and also experimented with writing techniques. In Every Day Gets a Little Closer Yalom invited a patient to co-write about the experience of therapy. The book has two distinct voices which are looking at the same experience in alternating sections. Yalom’s works have been used as collegiate textbooks and standard reading for psychology students. His new and unique view of the patient/client relationship has been added to curriculum in psychology programs at such schools as John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

Yalom has continued to maintain a part-time private practice and has authored a number of video documentaries on therapeutic techniques. Yalom is also featured in the 2003 documentary Flight from Death, a film that investigates the relationship of human violence to fear of death, as related to subconscious influences. The Irvin D. Yalom Institute of Psychotherapy, which he co-directs with Professor Ruthellen Josselson, works to advance Yalom’s approach to psychotherapy. This unique combination of integrating more philosophy into the psychotherapy can be considered as psychosophy.

He was married to author and historian Marilyn Yalom, who died in November, 2019. Their four children are: Eve, a gynaecologist, Reid, a photographer, Victor, a psychologist and entrepreneur and Ben, a theatre director.