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Peck, M.W. (1936). Twentieth Century Psychiatry. Its Contributions to Man's Knowledge of himself: By William A. White, M.D. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1936. 185 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 5:447-450.

(1936). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 5:447-450

Twentieth Century Psychiatry. Its Contributions to Man's Knowledge of himself: By William A. White, M.D. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1936. 185 pp.

Review by:
Martin W. Peck

This book is one of a series based on the Salmon Memorial Lectures given yearly under the auspices of the New York Academy of Medicine. As those who know Dr. White might expect, he selects for his presentation no special feature of psychiatry but penetrates beyond the particular to the general, and deals with the subject as a whole. He approaches this broad problem with characteristic thoroughness, and few phases of human life, whether normal or abnormal, escape his scrutiny. While this treatment implies much of comprehensive synthesis, any temptation to construct a world-view has been avoided. Instead there is the spectacle of a versatile and highly trained mind in action, a mind seasoned by experience but without sacrifice of eagerness and enthusiasm. Paths in every direction leading to the known and into the unknown are followed wherever they lead and as far as they go, while from the resulting mass of heterogeneous findings useful correlations are established. The author's qualifications for an unbiased survey of psychiatry are unusual. He is at once scientist, philosopher and practical executive, while in addition he is friend to all mankind,—and this not only to humanity in the psychiatric laboratory but to contemporaries in his own field as well, whether or not they happen to agree with him.

Psychoanalysts should not be disappointed in the attention given to the contributions of Freud. This consideration is both explicit in a special discussion of psychoanalysis (pages 29–50) and implicit throughout the book in the use of terminology, assumptions and dynamic concepts which spring from the same source. For this still revolutionary discipline it is hard to find anywhere a dispassionate critic due to a surplus of emotional bias for or against. For an objective viewpoint Dr. White again qualifies by nature and experience, as well as by the extent of his technical knowledge in the field. His discussion is mainly of theoretical formulations rather than of methodology or data obtained from its application. On the whole he finds psychoanalysis good and gives it a central position in modern psychiatry.

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