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A Thoughtful Tribute to Gerald Grob

We are saddened to report the passing of Gerald Grob, our Beloved and Distinguished Henry E. Sigerist Professor of the History of Medicine (Emeritus) on December 16 in Evergreen, Colorado.


David Mechanic and Margaret Marsh have written a thoughtful tribute to Gerry:

With great sadness we report the death of our dear friend and colleague, Gerald Grob, the Henry E. Sigerist Professor of the History of Medicine (Emeritus) at Rutgers University and its Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research. Gerry, in his life and work, exemplified the highest quality of love, friendship, loyalty, integrity, and exceptional scholarship and professional leadership.

He was a warm friend to colleagues and students, thoughtful and committed and always ready to offer assistance and support. Although a very distinguished scholar who attained many honors, he was a modest person who never made the issue about himself. He loved doing others favors and promoting the careers of his colleagues and students.

Gerry, after serving in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, received his history PhD in 1958 from Northwestern University. He began his career at Clark University as an instructor in 1957, advancing to the rank of Professor and chairing the Department of History from 1967-1969. He joined Rutgers in 1969 as Professor where he spent the remainder of his career in the Department of History and the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research. He chaired the Department of History on three occasions: 1969-1971; 1973-1974 and 1981-1984.

Gerry was the most distinguished and productive historian of the treatment of the mentally ill in America. His first book in this area which became a classic, The State and the Mentally Ill: A History of the Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts, 1830–1920 received the 1965 annual prize of the American Association of State and Local History. Between 1973 and 1991, he published the definitive 3 volume history of mental health treatment and policy in America from 1875 to approximately 1990: Mental Institutions in America: Social Policy to 1875 (Free Press); Mental Illness and American Society, 1875-1940 (Princeton University Press); and From Asylum to Community: Mental Health Policy in Modern America (Princeton University Press). He then published a more accessible review of this history for the general reader, The Mad Among Us: A History of the Care of America’s Mentally Ill (first issued by Free Press in 1994, and reissued as a paperback by Harvard University Press). His work ranging over many controversial areas, often encouraging polemics among writers, was always characterized by balance and fairness and meticulous respect for the historical record.

Although Gerald Grob continued to publish books, book chapters and journal publications on mental health policy throughout his career and as an emeritus professor, in later years he expanded his research and teaching to additional areas of medical history. After teaching more broadly about the history of disease in America, he published in 2002 The Deadly Truth: A History of Disease in America (Harvard University Press) and most recently in 2013 Aging Bones: A Short History of Osteoporosis (Johns Hopkins Press).

Grob’s magnificent research and professional leadership resulted in wide recognition and many honors. In 1991 he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science, now the National Academy of Medicine. Among his other honors were the William H. Welch Medal and the Fielding H. Garrison Lecturer from the American Association of the History of Medicine (both in 1986) and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. He held many offices in the American Association for the History of Medicine over the years including its Presidency in 1996-1998. He was also recognized as one of Rutgers’ most outstanding professors by selection as the first recipient of the Gorenstein Award in 1994, one of the University’s most important awards honoring a professor who combines a distinguished scholarly record with important contributions to the functioning and welfare of the University. Gerry was similarly recognized by an Honorary Degree from Clark University, his previous university appointment.

All of the above accomplishments and honors cannot really convey the measure of the man. Gerry was an extraordinary person with much humility and humanity and selfless in his commitment to his friends and family and to serving the people and institutions he worked with. While always a gentleman, he had little tolerance for cant or posturing and a fierce commitment to what he believed to be the evidence even if those conclusions were not popular. He was very proud of his wife, Lila, and his three sons and their families (Evan, Seth, and Brad) and was very much a family man. We very much loved him and will remember him for the many contributions he made to our lives.

David Mechanic and Margaret Marsh

December 16, 2015

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