Campus & Community

Joseph J. Schildkraut, psychopharmacology pioneer

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Joseph J. Schildkraut, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and founding director of the Neuropsychopharmacology/Psychiatric Chemistry Laboratory at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center (MMHC), died with his family at his side on June 26.

Schildkraut received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1955, followed by his M.D. from Harvard Medical School (HMS) in 1959. He completed his residency at MMHC and spent four years at the National Institute of Mental Health. He rejoined the HMS community in 1967 and began a career at MMHC that would span nearly four decades, first as an assistant professor of psychiatry, becoming full professor in 1974, and retiring as emeritus in 2004.

Former editor-in-chief of the Journal of Psychiatric Research, Schildkraut was the author of more than 200 scientific publications. His seminal paper, “The Catecholamine Hypothesis of Affective Disorders,” published in 1965, set the agenda for biological research on depression for the next 25 years. This paper was recognized in 1997 as the most cited of all articles ever published in the American Journal of Psychiatry and one of the most cited papers in the history of psychiatry.

In addition, Schildkraut was involved in the development and progress of Harvard’s Commonwealth Research Center (CRC) based at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. For many years, in the CRC’s initial phase of development, Schildkraut served as the chair of the CRC Scientific Advisory Board, and he subsequently served as one of the senior mentor/collaborators in the CRC program of research on schizophrenia.

More recently, Schildkraut had been exploring the inter-relatedness of depression, spirituality, and artistic creativity. He was editor of the book “Depression and the Spiritual in Modern Art: Homage to Miró,” which was published in 1996.

Schildkraut is survived by his wife of 40 years, Betsy Beilenson Schildkraut; his two sons, Peter and Mike; his sister, Shelley Schildkraut Gornish; and his 100-year-old mother, Shirley Schildkraut.

A private graveside funeral was held on June 27. A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Sept. 17, in the Memorial Church. Donations can be made to the Joseph Schildkraut Massachusetts Mental Health Center Fund at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, c/o BIDMC Psychiatry, 185 Pilgrim Road, Boston, MA 02215.