Roy Grinker’s life spanned nearly the entire 20th century, and his influence on the development of psychiatry during that century was profound. A clinician, teacher, researcher, and administrator, he wrote over 25 books, more than 350 papers, was Chief Editor of the Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry from 1956 – 1976, and founded one of the finest inpatient and outpatient psychiatric facilities in the country.
Grinker was born in 1900 in Chicago, attended the University of Chicago, Rush Medical School, became a neurologist and then psychiatrist, did post-graduate training in Zurich, London, and Hamburg, and at 27 years old became Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the new University of Chicago Hospital. He sought further training in the new field of psychoanalysis, going to Vienna in 1933 where he was one of Freud’s last patients. Returning to Chicago, he built the Institute for Psychosomatic and Psychiatric Research and Training at Michael Reese Hospital (P&PI) which became renowned for psychiatric treatment, training, and research. He became Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Chicago, University of Illinois, and Northwestern University, was on the faculty of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis, and served on several editorial boards.
One of Grinker’s first major publications was his neurology textbook (Grinker’s Neurology) (1). This was followed by two books based on his work with the military in North Africa and Florida during World War II: War Neuroses in North Africa (2) and Men Under Stress (3). This research involved war trauma and treatment and remains important today. Grinker was committed to an integrated biopsychosocial view of understanding human functioning, as reflected in his 1956 book Toward a Unified Theory of Human Behavior (4). Over the next 35 years, he pioneered work in three major clinical areas: depression, borderline psychopathology and character structure, and schizophrenia. These studies were published in 1961 (The Phenomena of Depressions) (5), 1968 (The Borderline Syndrome) (6), and 1987 (Clinical Research in Schizophrenia) (7); of all his work, he may be best known for his research on the borderline dilemma.
In the midst of this productive professional life, he also had an active social life. He married and had two children, a daughter who became a lawyer and a son who became a psychoanalyst. He enjoyed bridge, gin rummy, golf, and horseshoes. Unfortunately, later in life he developed herpes zoster and suffered intractable pain until his death at age 93.
Roy Grinker was especially proud of his teaching and training, and many of his students went on to become chairs of departments across the country. He used to tell his residents who were anxious about graduating and going out into the world: “Well, you can always start the program over!” During his career, Grinker’s interests ranged over neurology, psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, clinical research, and psychoanalysis. Ultimately, he was a mentor and role-model for several generations of teachers and leaders in all these various fields.
- Grinker RR: Grinker’s Neurology. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1933.
- Grinker RR, Spiegel J: War Neuroses in North Africa. New York: Macy Foundation, 1943.
- Grinker RR, Spiegel J: Men Under Stress. Philadelphia: Blakiston, 1945.
- Grinker RR: Toward a Unified Theory of Human Behavior. New York: Basic Books, 1956.
- Grinker RR et al: The Phenomena of Depressions. New York: Hoeber, 1961.
- Grinker RR et al: The Borderline Syndrome. New York: Basic Books, 1968.
- Grinker RR, Harrow M: Clinical Research in Schizophrenia. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1987.