In 1955, TV newsman Chet Huntley was worried about the state of journalism. He decided to try to change his own behavior. We can adapt his resolutions to change ours. Normally, I would hold this post until next December or January, when people have New Year’s resolutions in mind. But I’m impatient, and I won’t…

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An eminent neuroscientist died last week at the age of 95. He made important discoveries and helped countless people with complicated medical conditions.  But he died during the COVID-19 pandemic in a state with many sick people, was denied a public burial, and his family planned a virtual funeral.  This was my first time attending a…

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Harry Glicken

When I knew Harry Glicken during the mid-1970s at Venice High School in Los Angeles, I could not imagine my classmate as a history-maker of the future. He was disheveled, wore unstylish clothing over his gaunt frame, and had trouble keeping his glasses straight. He spoke in a rush and loved to argue. But to…

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Charles Dawes

Barry Manilow, Van Morrison, the Four Tops, Cass Elliot, Isaac Hayes, Bing Crosby and Nat “King” Cole all owe a lot to a now obscure United States vice president and Nobel Peace Prize winner named Charles Dawes. Those musical artists, as well as dozens of others, recorded a song that the American statesman dashed off…

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Black Stork

This year marks the centennial of one of the most infamous movies of the silent era, which made a case for allowing disabled infants to die and sparked a national debate between 1917 and the late 1920s before sinking into obscurity. Along the way, The Black Stork rocketed a physician to fame and symbolized America’s conflicted attitude…

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Joseph Jastrow

When Joseph Jastrow died in 1944 at age 80, he was almost a forgotten figure in American psychology and certainly an irrelevant one to many minds. Decades earlier he had given up full-time work in academe, and his most recent writing, an analysis of the psychology of Adolf Hitler, had been ignored. Yet for many…

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bottle of Amytal Sodium

Remember the routine from black and white espionage dramas of the 1940s and ‘50s? The bad guys detain a suspected spy, who won’t talk even after a rough interrogation. Soon, after receiving an injection of a colorless liquid, he’s muttering uncontrollably, spilling the details of an entire network of agents. The truth serum has done…

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After the end of World War II, a Nazi leader dies in Allied custody under strange circumstances. An American military psychiatrist longs to prove his pet theory by having the Nazi’s brain removed from the body and examined. With help from a friend, the psychiatrist succeeds in extracting the organ and smuggling it out of…

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assembly of Third Reich

When I wrote my book The Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Göring, Douglas M. Kelley, and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII (PublicAffairs Books), which is about an American psychiatrist’s involvement with the Nazi leaders and the consequences of his experience, I was surprised to learn how the physician’s insights into the leadership structure…

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Walter Freeman (right) performing a lobotomy with his surgical partner James Watts

Many people believe that the developer of the most dreaded form of psychiatric surgery traveled America in a camper van that he slyly called his “lobotomobile.” It’s a myth.  I often receive emails from middle school and high school students working on projects about the history of lobotomy, a now obsolete but once mainstream form…

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