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Lewis, N.D. (1948). Dr. Abraham A. Brill As a Psychiatrist. Psychoanal. Rev., 35(4):399-402.

(1948). Psychoanalytic Review, 35(4):399-402

Dr. Abraham A. Brill As a Psychiatrist

Nolan D. C. Lewis

“In the discovery of truth, in the development of man's mental powers and privileges each generation has its assigned part and it is for us to endeavor to perform our portion of this perpetual task of our species.” (Whewell) In keeping with this thought and when many of us were still youngsters Dr. Brill began his study of psychiatry in 1903, at which time the German school was in the foreground with such investigators in the lead as Kraepelin, who emphasized the nature of course and outcome in the composition of disease entities, Ziehen, who in contrast developed a psychiatry and a psychology on the basis of modernized Herbartianism and association phenomena, and Wernicke with his neuroanatomical and topographically outlined spheres of mental activity.

Kraepelin's contributions, now so well known in the field of descriptive psychiatry, were making a strong impression on workers throughout the psychiatric world when in the midst of this trend Adolf Meyer was working in the active development of his own ideas in New York. He soon began to modify the Kraepelinian psychiatry and to advocate various innovations. This is the general setting of the stage as it was in the old institution called the New York Pathological Institute where Dr. Brill received his early training in neuropathology in which discipline he was engaged for some two years. However, it was not just neuropathology, as at the same time he was clinically concerned and influenced by Meyer's methods, which consisted of a most thorough examination of the patient with case studies of a completeness unusual for that time. Cases were presented, courses of instruction were inaugurated, seminars were established to discuss the literature, and a rather thorough reorientation made to the whole subject of psychiatry.

Dr. Brill considered this period of his training and experience as a particularly valuable and inspiring one. However, when it was decided that every State hospital should have a pathologist, Dr. Brill went to the Central Islip State Hospital and organized a laboratory. Here he performed autopsies and carried out other laboratory procedures for two years. In later life he often spoke of this as having been an interesting experience.

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