Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Important figures in the history of neuropsychiatry

Avi Ohry
Tel Aviv, Israel

The life of William Alwyn Lishman (1931–2021) was dedicated to neuropsychiatry.1-2 His classic textbook, Organic Psychiatry (1978), is a foundational book for neurologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and physiatrists. Lishman was the first UK professor of neuropsychiatry whose “abiding message was that neuropsychiatry was not a subspecialty but the whole of psychiatry—biopsychosocial—with the added perspective of brain functioning.”1

There were others who paved the way in this specialty: Sir Alexander Morison (1779–1866); John Hughlings Jackson (1835–1911) and his friends Sir David Ferrier (1843–1928) and Sir James Crichton-Browne (1840–1938); Walter Symington Maclay (1901–1964) and Eric Guttmann (1896–1948) at Maudsley Hospital in London; Jean Jacque Lhermitte (1959–1877) in France, and others.4

Lishman published widely on dementia, alcoholism, head injury, epilepsy, neuropsychology, and neuropsychiatry. One article stands out as different from his usual interests: the diagnosis and conservative treatment of brachial neuropathies, which was written with his mentor, W. Ritchie-Russell.5 Sir Ludwig Guttmann (1899–1980), my own mentor, often told me about his early research on peripheral nerves. He and his family, who were Jewish-German refugees, were permitted to stay in the UK. Ludwig Guttmann first worked at Balliol College, Oxford, and in 1939 was offered a research post at the Nuffield Department of Neurosurgery (The Radcliffe Infirmary) under Professor Sir Hugh William Bell Cairns, KBE FRCS (1896–1952).6 He also worked on nerve regeneration in the department of zoology and comparative anatomy with JZ Young and Peter Medawar,6 who later received the Nobel Prize.7 Ludwig Guttmann published a few articles on peripheral nerve research together with Eric Gutmann,8-10 but it seems that their interest in this topic was temporary.


  1. David  A. “W. Alwyn Lishman (obituary).” The Lancet 2021; 397(10286):1704.
  2. Lishman WA. “Psychiatric disability after head injury: the significance of
  3. brain damage.” Proc R Soc Med 1966;59(3):261-6.
  4. Lishman WA. “What is neuropsychiatry?” J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1992;55(11):983-5.
  5. Ohry A. “The Department of Neuro-psychiatry. “Harefuah, 2018;157: 464-6. (Hebrew).
  6. Lishman WA, Russell WR. “The brachial neuropathies.” The Lancet, 1961;  2(7209):941-7.
  7. Goodman S. Spirit of Stoke Mandeville: the story of Sir Ludwig Guttmann. Collins, London, 1986, p.86-7.
  8. Guttmann L, Medawar PB. “The chemical inhibition of fibre regeneration and neuroma formation in peripheral nerves.” J Neurol Psychiatry 1942;5(3-4):130-41.
  9. Gutmann E, Guttmann L. “Factors affecting recovery of sensory function after nerve lesions.” J Neurol Psychiatry 1942 ;5(3-4):117-29.
  10. Gutmann E, Guttmann L. “The effect of Galvanic exercise on denervated and
  11. re-innervated muscles in the rabbit.” J Neurol Psychiatry 1944;7(1-2):7-17.
  12. Weddell G, Guttmann L, Gutmann E. “The local extension of nerve fibres into
  13. denervated areas of skin.” J Neurol Psychiatry 1941;4(3-4):206-25.

AVI OHRY, MD, is married with two daughters. He is Emeritus Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at Tel Aviv University, the former director of Rehabilitation Medicine at Reuth Medical and Rehabilitation Center in Tel Aviv, and a member of The Lancet‘s Commission on Medicine & the Holocaust. He conducts award-winning research in neurological rehabilitation, bioethics, medical humanities and history, and on long-term effects of disability and captivity. He plays the drums with three jazz bands.

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