Lives of the fellows

Eric Benjamin Strauss

b.18 February 1894 d.11 January 1961
BA Oxon(1921) BM BCh Oxon(1924) MA Oxon(1930) DM Oxon(1930) Hon DSc Frankfurt(1954) MRCP(1926) FRCP(1939)

Eric Strauss, the youngest of the six children of Siegfried Strauss, a diamond merchant, and Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Berens, a Birmingham exporter, was born in London, and educated at Oundle, University College School, New College, Oxford, and King’s College Hospital, London. His early intention of entering the diplomatic service led to his study of mediaeval and modern languages, which, with his equally profound knowledge of the sciences, coloured his later teachings, writings and conversation. Before turning to medicine he served from 1914 to 1918 as a captain in the Middlesex Regiment; this certainly contributed to his concern for people and his interest in every facet of human nature.

Following posts as house physician at King’s College and St. John and St. Elizabeth Hospitals, and as senior registrar at the Maida Vale Hospital for Epilepsy and Paralysis, he went from 1929 to 1930 as voluntary assistant physician to the Marsburg Hospital under the eminent Professor Kretschmer, whose classical Textbook of medical psychology he translated in 1934, and of whom he became the foremost disciple in England.

From 1931 to 1934 he was assistant physician to the Cassel Hospital for Functional Nervous Disorders, and then to the Tavistock Clinic before his appointment as physician in psychological medicine at St. Bartholomew’s. There, for twenty-one years, he proved a brilliant and stimulating teacher, demonstrating his classic dictum: ‘Psychiatry is the other half of medicine’. He embraced no special school of psychology. A philosopher with an interest in theology, he could quickly decide when the basic trouble was spiritual, but that he never forgot the physical methods of treatment is shown in his advocacy of electrical convulsion therapy for patients with depression. He opened the first out-patient clinic for electroplexy in 1940.

At the College he was Croonian lecturer in 1952. Among the books he published were Psychiatry in the modern world (1958), Reason and unreason in psychological medicine (1953) and, with W. R. Brain, Recent advances in neurology (1929).

Strauss’s familiar monocle added to his distinguished appearance; it did not detract from the charm of his personality. He was a composer as well as a skilful pianist, and no mean connoisseur of modern art. He therefore enjoyed to the full his extensive and varied friendships. He did not marry.

Richard R Trail

[Brit.med.J., 1961, 1, 214 (p), 598-9; Cork Examiner, 20 Jan. 1961; Lancet, 1961, 1, 175-6 (p); Times, 13, 17, 20 Jan. 1961.]

(Volume V, page 404)

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