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Leo Kanner

Institutional affiliation: 1928 - 1981

Leo KannerIn 1928, when Adolf Meyer brought Austrian-born Leo Kanner to Hopkins, childhood thoughts, feelings, and behavior were immensely fascinating to Freudian psychiatrists insofar as they revealed the seeds of future adult neurosis. Kanner, in contrast, became concerned with severe psychiatric problems in children.

In his nearly 30 years as the first director of child psychiatry at Hopkins, and in a productive career after that, Kanner wrote the first textbook of child psychiatry and was the first to provide a systematic description of childhood autism, which occurred in children as a “disability to relate themselves in the ordinary way to people and situations from the beginning of life.” (1944)  He was, in essence, the first child psychiatrist—the first psychiatrist to be primarily concerned with the mental problems of children.

Dean MacKinnon, M.D

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