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Menninger, K.A. Devereux, G. (1948). Smith Ely Jelliffe—Father of Psychosomatic Medicine in America. Psychoanal. Rev., 35(4):350-363.

(1948). Psychoanalytic Review, 35(4):350-363

Smith Ely Jelliffe—Father of Psychosomatic Medicine in America

Karl A. Menninger, M.D. and George Devereux, Ph.D.

There is probably little doubt that in point of erudition Smith Ely Jelliffe was certainly the peer of any neurologist or psychiatrist yet produced by America, and in the van of almost the entire medical profession. His knowledge not only of medicine in general, but of medical history, neurology, psychology, pharmacology, biology, and psychiatry was colossal. He seemed to have read everything and perhaps his favorite pleasure was to go to the Academy of Medicine and make excerpts from the findings and opinions of predecessors and contemporaries regarding topics of special interest to him. He seemed to collect facts and knowledge almost in the way that he used to collect mosses and lichens. Although he once spoke of himself as a “magpie”, he was not bewildered by his facts, since he had a remarkable ability to see deeply into what came to be called “psycho-biological”, and, later, “psychosomatic” processes.

Jelliffe's work in psychosomatic medicine probably represents his crowning achievement, and in a very real sense he may be said to have been the “father” of the concept in its present form (i.e., with the inclusion of unconscious determinants). A review of his accomplishments in the inauguration of this field may serve to substantiate this assertion.

Development of Jelliffe's Thought on Psychosomatic Medicine as Reflected in His Publications. In 1902 Jelliffe wrote an article on Influenza and the Nervous System for the Philadelphia Medical Journal (1) which is significant because sixteen years later he wrote a very extended article on the nervous and mental disturbances of influenza (3) which might almost be said to have ushered in his subsequent series of articles on psychosomatic medicine.

Many of his articles during the first ten years of the twentieth century dealt with strictly medical problems or borderline problems such as drug addiction, neuritis, hemiplegia, epilepsy, etc.

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