Lives of the fellows

Harold Douglas Singer

b.1 January 1875 d.28 August 1940
MB Lond(1898) MD Lond(1900) MRCP(1901) FRCP(1932)

By the death of Harold Singer, as the result of a motor accident in August 1940, American psychiatry lost a physician with an unusual ability to combine profound scientific knowledge with constructive administration. He was the son of Charles Douglas Singer, a printer, and his wife, the former Edith Eleanor Godden. When he went to America at the age of twenty-nine he carried with him the fundamentals he had learnt at St. Thomas’s Hospital and during his three years’ post-graduate training under Hughlings Jackson and Sir William Gowers at the National Hospital, Queen Square.

Distinguished positions and honours followed in a steady procession. In 1907 he went from the associate professorship of neurology at Creighton University School of Medicine to the State Psychopathic Institute of Illinois as its director, and during a lectureship which lasted until 1920 was appointed state alienist and advisory consultant in neuropsychiatry to the Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service in 1917, and advisory consultant to the United States Veterans Bureau in 1919, in which year he became professor of psychiatry in the University of Illinois College of Medicine. In 1934 he was elected editor-in-chief of the Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry, and at the time of his death was president of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and of the American Neurological Association.

A tall, well-built man, Singer could not hide under a rather lean and hungry look his ability to attract devoted assistants, and under a taciturn reserve his sincerity in the objective appreciation of facts and his dislike of factions which might hinder progress towards a sound administration in psychiatry. While his capacity for objectiveness was thought by some critics to go too far in its refusal to be swayed by the factors of personality, it shone in his excellence as an expert witness in many famous trials.

He married twice; firstly in 1904, Edith, daughter of Sydney T. Day, by whom he had two daughters and one son; secondly, in 1925, Rhoda Worthington.

Richard R Trail

[Amer. J. Psychiat., 1941, 97,1002-04; Arch. Neurol. Psychiat. (Chicago), 1941, 45, 1002-04 (p); J. Amer. med. Ass., 1940, 115, 873; J. nerv. ment. Dis., 1940, 92, 562-3; 1941, 93, 134-7; Proc. Inst. Med. Chicago, 1940, 13, 222-3.]

(Volume V, page 381)

<< Back to List