Barry Blackwell’s reply to Samuel Gershon’s comment on Barry Blackwell’s reply to Edward Shorter’s comment
Johan Schioldann: History of the Introduction of Lithium into Medicine and Psychiatry:  Birth of Modern Psychopharmacology 1949 

        I thank Sam for his kind and thoughtful comments on my review of Schioldann’s impressive volume. Sam has been a significant figure in the lithium story since its modern re-emergence.

        I agree that Lange was the first person to demonstrate the benefit of lithium in depressive disorder and, given that his observations were in outpatients, it is possible they included patients with Type 2 bipolar disorder in whom minor or brief manic episodes went unremarked or complained about, as may have been true of Schou’s brother, a possibility Schou considered investigating later in life. 

       What is remarkable is that neither Schou nor Cade gave credit to the Lange brothers and this is why I chose not to comment on that. I also failed to comment on Hammond whose work had no lasting impact on American psychiatry and has attracted virtually no mention in modern debates. Although he might deserve mention, I am also influenced by the prolonged ban on lithium by the FDA which was extended long after the Australian work Sam participated in that demonstrated its safety in proper use. Thus, it seemed natural to accord primary credit for initiating the modern era to Australia over Denmark even though eventually prophylaxis was a much broader, unique and significant contribution.


April 12, 2018