One who did more than anyone else could ever do in one lifetime to develop scientific knowledge and therapeutic and preventive activity in relation to alcoholism, is no more. The sudden death of Dr. E. M. Jellinek at the desk of his study October 22, 1963, is a painful loss to the many thousands of colleagues who now, in large part because of his work, are carrying forward the study, treatment and prevention of alcoholism all over the world.
An amazing amount of what is known today about the nature and treatment of alcoholism and other addictions stems from the prodigious amount of work in this field which Dr. Jellinek accomplished during the final third of his life.
Such penetrating concepts as the phases of alcoholism and the species of alcoholism are likely to dominate the way one deals with alcoholism for many decades to come. The tremendous growth of acceptance of the idea that alcoholism can be treated is due largely not only to Dr. Jellinek's scientific work and writings, but also to his energetic prosecution of such ventures as the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, the Abstract Archives of the Alcohol Literature, the Yale Centre of Alcohol Studies, the Yale Plan Clinics, the National Council on Alcoholism, and others too numerous to mention. Every program in the field of alcoholism in the world today has been influenced-some very profoundly-by Dr. Jellinek's scholarly contributions.
What sort of a life was it that led to such a proliferation of progress in what had been before a relatively neglected field? "Bunky," as he was known to friends all over the world, was born in New York, August 15, 1890. He studied biometrics and physiology at the University of Berlin (1908 to 1911) and the University of Grenoble (1911). He received a Master of Education degree at the University of Leipzig in 1914. He returned to Leipzig in 1935 and was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science. Perhaps the honor of which he was most proud was Honorary Doctor of Surgery from the University of Chile, in recognition of his great sceintific contributions, and his work internationally which led to a better understanding of alcoholism by the medical profession.
During the twenties, he was engaged in biometric research, first in Sierra Leone in West Africa and later as Assistant Director of Research for the United Fruit Company in Tela, Honduras. During the thirties, he was Chief Biometrician and later Associate Director of Research at the Memorial Foundation for Neuro-Endocrine Research, Worcester Street Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
In the late thirties a group known as the Research Council on Problems of Alcohol launched a study of the effects of alcohol on the individual. This took the form of a critical review of the medical-psychological literature and Dr. Jellinek was commissioned to undertake this study. By the time the outcome of this study was published as the book Alcohol Addiction and Chronic Alcoholism (Yale University Press, 1942), Dr. Jellinek had accumulated some 3,000 coded asbstracts of scientific literature, which in due course became the well-known Classified Abstract Archives of the Alcohol Literature. This has been maintained ever since by the staff of the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, of which, incidentally, Dr. Jellinek was for a time managing editor.
From 1941 to 1952, Dr. Jellinek was Associate Professor of Applied Physiology at Yale University, leaving there to take up an appointment in Geneva as consultant on alcoholism to the World Health Organization. To this new vantage point, he brought not only his great knowledge of the field but a very noticeable talent for establishing tolerance amidst clashing viewpoints. Among other things, he was fluent in 9 languages and could communicate in 4 others. He travelled widely, consulting with scientists and government officials of many countries. He organized many international seminars and scientific meetings. Some of the most significant and concise writings of Dr. Jellinek's are found in the W.H.O. technical reports covering the activities of the alcoholism sub-committee of the W.H.O. Expert Committee on Mental Health.
On his retirement from W.H.O. in the late fifties, he returned to North America and continued a wide variety of activities as a lecturer, consultant, writer, and continuing student of alcoholism and related problems.
In 1958 he moved to Canada in order to continue his studies as a member of the Departments of Psychiatry in both the University of Toronto and the University of Alberta. In Canada he also acted as a consultant to the Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario (at Toronto) and the Alcoholism Foundation of Alberta. In 1961 he became a member of the Co-operative Commission for the study of Alcoholism and on January 15th, 1962, moved to Stanford University in California in order to work full time with the Commission. Here he undertook the development of an Encyclopedia on Alcohol Problems, a work in which he was mobilizing the efforts of expert contributors throughout the world. This was his task at the time of his death.
Dr. Jellinek is the author of many scientific articles and books, of which, perhaps the most important is the recently published Disease Concept of Alcoholism (Hillhouse Press, New Haven, Conn., 1960). He wrote also for a much wider audience such whimsical, educational items as Alcohol, Cats and People, and supervised the introduction of the World Health Organization's cartoon film "To Your Health". He was beloved and respected by persons of greatly contrasting viewpoints on subjects related to alcohol and the problems it involves, and his spirit lives on in the open-minded search of truth that so many people are continuing in this field.
[Reprinted from The American Journal Of Psychiatry, Vol. 120, No. 12, June, 1964]
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