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Nathan Kline was born in 1916 and died tragically at the age of 66 in 1983 following open heart surgery. A graduate of Swarthmore College and New York University College of Medicine, Kline was a practicing psychiatrist.  He was among the very first pioneers to use and study drugs for the treatment of mental illness, beginning in 1952 when, at age 36, he started a research unit at Rockland State Hospital in New York (named the Nathan Kline Research Institute after his death).

He was a founding member of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (1961) and its sixth President (1967). Kline was the only two time recipient of the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award; in 1957, for work on Rauwolfia Serpentina in the early treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders and in 1964, for introducing the first MAO inhibitor (iproniazid) as an “energizer” in the treatment of mood disorders. Within a decade, Rockland Research Institute had established a worldwide reputation and a staff of over 300, attracting students and colleagues from around the world who Kline insisted live in close proximity to their patients.

He was also a major proponent of lithium in bipolar disorder and also recognized its potential usefulness in alcoholism.  In 1968 he installed one of the early computers at Rockland State to facilitate research. The early treatment successes helped initiate the process of de-institutionalization, leading nationwide to the closure of asylums. Kline did much to publicize and de-stigmatize mental illness with over 500 publications directed to both the medical profession and general public. His book, “From Sad to Glad” became a best seller. Kline was founder and Director of The International Committee Against Mental Illness, consulted with the World Health Organization, and devoted much time and effort to promoting treatment of mental illness in developing countries.

Kline NS. Use of Rauwolfia Serpentina Benth in Neuropsychiatric Conditions. Ann NY Acad Sci, 1954; 59: 107-32. Kline NS. Clinical experience with iproniazid (Marsilid). J Clin Exp Pathol 1958; 19 (suppl.1): 72-8.

Barry Blackwell

June 13, 2013