You are here: Books / First hand accounts / Discoveries In Biological Psychiatry

Discoveries In Biological Psychiatry

Edited by Frank J. Ayd, Jr. and Barry Blackwell

J.B. Lippincott Philadelphia/Toronto 1970

Discoveries in Biological Psychiatry was first published in 1971 and re-published in 1984. The book reports the proceedings of a unique international symposium sponsored by the Taylor Manor Hospital in Baltimore in 1970. It includes first person accounts by those who discovered the original drugs in each of the major categories of psychotropic medications.

The book's senior editor, Frank Ayd, was a psychiatrist in private practice whose prolific publications reported on the benefits and side effects of the earliest medications used to successfully treat mental illness. The junior editor, Barry Blackwell, reported the cheese reaction to MAO inhibitors while a first year resident at the Maudsley Hospital in London, later emigrated to America and, at the time of the conference, held joint appointments in pharmacology and psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati and as Group Director of Psychiatric Clinical Research at the Wm S Merrell Company.

The first and final chapters are by the editors; Blackwell used his original research in animals and humans as the template to review the literature on the process of scientific discovery and the matrix of variables that influence that outcome. Ayd reviews the impact of biological psychiatry on everyday practice, what had been accomplished in the first fifteen years, what had been learned and concluded with present and future needs. It is a brilliant synopsis viewed retrospectively from today's awareness of the successes and failures of the ensuing forty years.

Between these two bookends are a library of personal testimony by the pioneers of psychopharmacology each describing their own discovery and the framework within which they were made. Joel Elkes relates the beginnings of the new science of

Neuropsychopharmacology and his personal involvement in creating among the first programs in Britain and America with the ensuing emergence of national and international organizations to promote interdisciplinary collaboration including the CINP and the ACNP (of which Joel was the first President). Two following chapters record the evolution of the discipline; Irvine Page traces its scientific development and Luther Kalinowsky describes the first biological treatments to emerge including fever therapy, insulin coma, ECT and psychosurgery. Next Chauncey Leake traces the long road in drug development from original idea through animal research to successful or unsuccessful outcomes in humans.

What follows this groundwork are the detailed descriptions of the first discoveries in each category of psychotropic medication. This includes Tracy Putnam (Anticonvulsants), Albert Hoffmann (Hallucinogens), John Krantz (Anesthesia and Convulsants), Frank Berger (Meprobamate), Irv Cohen (Benzodiazepines), Hugo Bein

(Reserpine), Pierre Deniker (Phenothiazines), Paul Janssen (Butyrophenones), Jorgen Ravn (Thioxanthines), Nathan Kline (MAO Inhibitors), Roland Kuhn (Tricyclic Antidepressants) and John Cade (Lithium).

This book containing the remarkable roll call of pioneers and their unique discoveries is now out of print. Copies of the 1984 hardback edition are available at a reasonable cost on Amazon but copies of the original 1971 soft back are rare and sell for around five hundred dollars!