Exhibit: Pittsburgh Neuropsychiatric Society—A Glimpse at the Local History

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Pittsburgh Neurological Society, later renamed the Pittsburgh Neuropsychiatric Society. An exhibit in Falk Library’s lobby celebrates this event with displays of the first four Minutes Books covering the years 1912-62.

The first 50 years of the Society’s existence began at a meeting in May 1912, with a gathering of nine physicians in Dr. Samuel Ayers home. Dr. Ayers was appointed president along with Dr. Edward E. Mayer as secretary. The meetings were very informal during the first two years. Members met at each other homes and had no dues to pay. The minutes were written afterward by Dr. George T. Wright, when he became secretary in 1914.

Over the years, the Society attracted an eclectic group of professionals including neurologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, and neurosurgeons. Meetings were held at St. Francis Hospital, Allegheny General Hospital, Mayview State Hospital, the Pittsburgh Academy of Medicine, and several other locations. A group of 30-35 active members attended the monthly meetings. With the breadth of specialties, the Society served a formative role in the development of neurology and psychiatry in the Western Pennsylvania.

The fourth Minute Book ends with events celebrating Society’s 50th anniversary. It describes a series of five very successful special scientific programs organized between October 1961 and April 1962 in Scaife Hall. Each of the special meetings drew 200-400 guests. The papers presented during the celebration year were published as “Vistas in Neurosurgery” (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1964) and became a part of the permanent record illustrating the Pittsburgh Neuropsychiatric Society’s history.

The rest of the story is shrouded in mystery. What happened to this successful group of enthusiasts? The second half of the last Minute Book is empty. All attempts to trace any references to the society have failed. The officers elected for 1962-63 were: Henry W. Brosin (president), Robert J. Shoemaker (vice president), William E. Lebeau (secretary/treasurer), and Robert Love Baker (reporter). Perhaps the fifth Minute Book is still somewhere among their private papers. If you can shed a light on the mysterious silence of resources, please contact Falk Library at 412-383-9773 or e-mail gosia@pitt.edu.

The Pittsburgh Neuropsychiatric Society exhibit is open to the public during regular library hours.

~ Gosia Fort