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Karl Menninger

September 28, 2011

From the Kansas Historical Society:

Born July 22, 1893, in Topeka, Kansas. Died July 18, 1990, in Topeka, Kansas.

Karl Augustus Menninger was born on July 22, 1893, in Topeka, to Charles Frederick and Florence Vesta (Kinsley) Menninger. As a young man Menninger was inspired by his dentist who mentioned that anyone would be honored to work with Dr. C.F. Menninger, a highly respected doctor. The younger Menninger imagined the possibilities of working with his father to improve medicine. He attended Washburn University, Indiana University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Harvard Medical School, where he became fascinated with the realm of psychology.  It was a time when some considered psychology pseudo medicine. Menninger completed a medical internship at Boston Psychopathic Hospital.

Menninger married Grace Gaines in 1916. They had three children. In 1919 Menninger and his father opened the Menninger Diagnostic Clinic. Here they planned to build a community of doctors that would cooperate to heal patients; where a patient’s mental health would be as important as his or her physical health. They established the Southard School for the mentally retarded, named for Menninger’s professor, E.E. Southard, chief of psychiatry at Harvard. They also began a training program specifically for nurses working in psychiatry. In 1925 Will Menninger joined his father and brother in the practice, which they renamed the Menninger Sanitarium, and relocated to a 20-acre site. The Menninger Foundation was established in 1941. Menninger married Jeanetta Lyle in 1941. They had one child. Following World War II Menninger helped to establish the Winter Veterans Administration Hospital in Topeka, the largest psychiatric training center in the world.

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