Thomas Arthur Ban, 1929-2022, by Edward Shorter


        This very down-to-earth Hungarian never called himself anything other than Tom Ban.  He was remarkably unpretentious, given a record that many would have been pretentious about.

        Born in Budapest in November 1929, Tom studied medicine at Semmelweis University from 1948 to 1954 and trained in Psychiatry at the National Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology in Budapest from 1954 to 1956.

        Because of the uprising, he left Budapest for Canada, serving as a rotating intern in 1957-58 at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax, then as a resident psychiatrist under Heinz Lehmann at the Verdun Protestant Hospital (VPH) in Verdun, Canada in 1958-59.  He also trained at the Allan Memorial Institute in Montreal in 1959-60 under Ewen Cameron.   In 1960 Tom joined the staff at Verdun as Senior Psychiatrist and Chief of the Clinical Research Service.   He received his Diploma in Psychiatry from McGill in 1960, with a thesis on “Conditioning and Psychiatry,” that was published in 1964.

        In 1971 he became the inaugural director the Division of Psychopharmacology at McGill, which was the first university division of its kind in this new field.  At McGill as well he became in 1972 Director of the WHO Training Program in Biological Psychiatry. 

        It would be fair to say that Tom found Heinz Lehmann as a kind of role model of excellence in addition to being a close friend, and from the get-go Tom investigated various drugs of interest at VPH, ultimately writing more than 60 books and more than 800 scientific articles.  By 1970 Tom had become Associate Professor at McGill.

        In 1976 he went to Vanderbilt University where he remained for the rest of his career.  At Vanderbilt he became in 1976 director of the Clinical Research Service at the Tennessee Neuropsychiatric Institute.  He retired in 1995 as Professor of Psychiatry.

        In 1969 Tom published Psychopharmacology (Williams and Wilkins in Baltimore), which is considered the first textbook in that field.  In the area of science administration, Tom was active in the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) and the Collegium Internationale Neuropsychopharmacologicum (CINP).   In 2013 he became the founding editor of the website International Network for the History of Neuropsychopharmacology (INHN).  In all of these capacities he developed a worldwide network of friends and associates becoming one of the international leadership figures in psychopharmacology.

        In addition to treatments, Tom had a strong interest in the classification of illness in psychiatry.  He was an adept of German psychiatrist Karl Leonhard and was an honorary member of the International Wernicke-Kleist-Leonhard Society; he considered the distinctive nosology that emerged from this school much superior to the competing Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association.

        Tom retained strong links to Hungary and Hungarian science.  Budapest psychiatrist Peter Gaszner was among his closest friends and Tom was often in Budapest giving talks and socializing widely.  He was an honorary member of the Hungarian Psychiatric Association and the Hungarian Association of Psychopharmacology and served on the editorial boards of two Hungarian psychiatric journals, in addition to journals in Argentina, Brazil, Italy and the United States.

        It would be beyond this space to list the numerous honors and awards that Tom received over the years.  But let it be noted that this long list began in 1953 with winning the Medical University of Budapest Student Competition in Neurology and Psychiatry and it concluded in 2003 with the Paul Hoch Distinguished Service Award of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology.  

        In 1993 Tom became a licensed member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, but when he, Joan and their son Chris moved to Toronto, Tom did not practice medicine.  He devoted himself to his far-flung scientific interests until dying on February 4, 2022, following a massive stroke.


February 24, 2022