[Diary entry on psychiatry at the University of Chicago]
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3, 9 December 1932
Original Repository: Rockefeller Archive Center. Rockefeller Foundation Archives
Reproduced with permission of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
Director of Medical Sciences, 1930-1945
Chicago - December 3, 1932
Conference with Drs. Houghton, Lillie, Taliaferro and Woodward
3. Present status of psychiatry in the University of Chicago. The Sprague fund was given in 1917 and certain modifications
were made in 1921. As it stands at the present time the understanding is that Univ. would secure $1,500,000 then the Sprague
family would erect a 40-50 bed hosp. for teaching and research and the income of the Sprague fund would be devoted to research
in psychiatry. This income now about $100,000. Need for development of psychiatry is great. The student health service and
pediatrics which has some psychiatry work going on them, but there's no real department or adequate teaching in the subject.
There would be good support from the depts. of anatomy and physiology and very definite cooperative interest in two other
divisions of the univ., social science and education.
It is feared that the Sprague family may be obliged to cancel the informal obligation they assumed to erect the hosp. There
are no affiliations in sight for prospective dept. of psychiatry with Ill. State Institutions for the Insane or Mental Diseased.
Some such affiliation was hoped for with the Behavior Res. Institute but it fell through.
AG said he thought principal difficulty was absence of satisfactory personnel for staff of dept. of psychiatry, but that it
was also true that lack of satisfactory affiliations in a handicap to securing good men, and unless satisfactorily met would
be a handicap in the future to the effectiveness of the dept. It transpired that Lillie had seriously considered Grinker,
now with Percival Bailey, as possible material for preparation for charge of the dept. but that the univ. did not have funds
to expend on special training for him. AG said in case they wished to make the request RF would be glad to consider Grinker's
candidacy for one of the fellowships which we have instituted specifically for the training of personnel in psychiatry. It
is admitted by all that no satisfactory candidate to head up psychiatry is in sight at the present. I did not have the impression
that there was any challenge offered to the judgment that it would not be wise to start something with no one to be responsible
for the development of psychiatry.
Tuesday, December 27, 1932
Says he comes in to talk over decision he must make as regards his own future. Is in disagreement with tendency which he reports
at Chicago to emphasize money making activities of members of the faculty. Does not know whether he wishes to keep on in neurology
or go into psychiatry or take up private practice. Told him I could not make any decision for him, but that I thought chance
of a satisfactory career in psychiatry was very good and that his training could be made into a useful contribution in the
field. Mentioned the fact that RF was interested in fellowships for training in psychiatry and allied subjects.
Psychiatry at Chicago
Interview with Gideon Wells - December 9, 1932
Story of the Sprague Institute substantially the following: The children of Col. Otho Sprague are Col. Albert Sprague of Chicago,
Mrs. Wesley Mitchell of New York, Mrs. Adolph C. Miller, and Miss Nancy Sprague. Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Miller were both at
one time on the Univ. of Chicago faculty. One is now well known as an economist and the other as a member of the Federal
Reserve Board. Miss Nancy Sprague is irrevocably insane, and some of the money which she inherited from her father is being
used for her maintenance.
Otho Sprague's will provided that eight- ten years after his death if his daughter did not recover her sanity the money
which would have been hers be devoted to the broad purposes of human welfare. This was left in the Northern Trust Co. of
Chicago, and Ryerson, Thos. D. Jones, Bartlett, Billings, and others were named as trustees, Billings swung the trustees in
favor of supporting research work. The fund became operative about 1917, and Wells has been the director.
Wells' purpose has been to prevent allocation of the income of the fund to any fixed purpose but to use it for various
types of research work. Along about 1921 Col. Albert Sprague asked if the fund could not be used for advancement of psychiatry.
Billings opposed this judgment, Judson was uninterested, but the rest of the committee became progressively interested in
using the fund for this purpose. At any rate eventually Billings has changed his attitude and is enthusiastic for such use.
The income from the fund in 1930 was $130,000 - it is now about $100,000.
The Sprague family, i. e. Col. Sprague, Mrs. Mitchell and Mrs. Miller about 1922 stated that they would provide $300,000 additional
for a building when the Univ. of Chicago could guarantee teaching and maintenance. In 1928-29 the Rosenwald Fund was disposed
to offer funds for maintenance if the RF would put up funds for teaching. This, however, did not materialize.
In the past five years Wells has tried to get a connection with the State Insane Asylums, but this was blocked by Pres. Kinley
of Ill. Univ. Probably Pres. Chase would have no objection to it. Lately Col. Sprague told Wells that the informal promise
on the part of the family to contribute $300,000 for a building is something they could hardly meet if requested to do so
now, and perhaps this offer should be removed from the record. Wells thinks that eventually from Nancy Sprague's Estate
and from Mrs. Miller there would be an additional $600,000 but Wells thinks there is no likelihood of the $300,000 offer materializing.
Political situation as regards a tie-up with the State insane institutions is now quite different from what it was and is
distinctly favorable at present.
At present Sprague funds are devoted largely in the field of pathology - three full-time men at present. Wells has an advisory
board of physicians in addition to the board of trustees. AG asked whether Sprague funds had given anything to the allied
field of neurology. The reply was that they had not. I did not ask nor quite surmise a reason for this.