Lyman Wynne

Lyman Wynne

1923-2007

(Biography written at time of nomination.)

In 1923, Lyman C. Wynne was born into an impoverished but intellectual Danish family in a Southern Minnesota village. A farmer and businessman, Lyman’s father supported the family on $350 per year and crops, though he discussed Spinoza and Kant with his children. Lyman’s mother was bedridden with uterine cancer for four years. At age 11, while his mother was dying, Lyman decided to become a medical researcher. At age 12, he was sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Duluth and from there obtained a full scholarship to Harvard. During the World War II, Lyman was assigned by the army to attend Harvard Medical School. In 1945, with the war ending, Lyman became a protégé of Erich Lindemann. That experience changed Lyman’s career path from cancer researcher to psychiatrist and ultimately, family therapist. Lyman’s first participation in psychotherapy was with Lindemann, not meeting with individual patients but with what Lindemann called the “social orbits” of highly disorganized families that included psychotic and psychosomatic members. During that period, Lindemann was publishing and discussing his pioneering studies of normal and unresolved grief. 

After a medical internship at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Lyman postponed psychiatric residency to return to Harvard for research training in the newly formed interdisciplinary Department of Social Relations. With Dick Solomon, he began research on the role of the autonomic nervous system in traumatic avoidance learning in dogs; it was a biopsychosocial study. He also participated in small seminars with Talcott Parsons who was writing his first book on social systems, with Clyde and Florence Kluckhohn in anthropology, and with Freed Bales working on the first research on coding group interaction processes. After completing his Ph.D., Lyman participated with Lindemann in setting up the first community mental health center, took time out for neurology training in London, and finally began psychiatric residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital with Lindemann and Stanley Cobb. During the 1952 call-up of doctors for the Korean War, he was sent by the Public Health Service to take part in beginning the new research program at National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland.

The early years at NIMH were free-wheeling and creative. Lyman earned further psychiatric residency credit at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and completed full psychoanalytic training as well. He experimented with innovative deviations from psychoanalysis, especially interviewing and treating [[I wiped out the quotation marks!]] families with schizophrenic members, with another pioneer of this approach, Murray Bowen doing the same across the hall. During the 1950s and 1960s, the NIMH program brought, courtesy of the doctors’ draft, such psychiatric stars as David Reiss, Will Carpenter, John Strauss, Bill Pollin, Stuart Hauser, Roger Shapiro, together with many interested visitors and colleagues, most notably Helm Stierlin, Margaret Singer, and Pekka Tienari. Lyman’s work with Margaret Singer on communication deviance (CD) of parents of patients with schizophrenia created a new method of analysis of thought disorders. 

In the early 1960s, Lyman took a sabbatical to conduct an anthropologic study of extended families in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. He also began a long participation in World Health Organization research on schizophrenia. However, managing the increasingly bureaucratic NIMH programs became onerous, and Lyman left to become Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester in 1971 where he initiated the Division of Programs as an environment to house interdisciplinary training, clinical services, and research; the Division flourishes to this day. After two 3-year terms as Chair, Lyman stepped down to focus more fully on family therapy and family research, especially the Rochester High-Risk Longitudinal Family Study and the Finnish Adoptive Family Study of Schizophrenia with Tienari. Clinically, he was active as a family psychiatrist, frequently seeing challenging cases with his favorite co-therapist, his wife, Adele.

In 1997, Lyman and Adele gave an endowment to the University of Rochester to start the Wynne Center for Family Research. The mission of the Wynne Center is to support family research and train new family researchers. Its first Director is Susan H. McDaniel. 

In 1998, Lyman retired to Emeritus status to spend more time with Adele, their five children, and five grandchildren. He has continued to publish the results of the Finnish Adoption Study with Pekka Tienari and Karl-Erik Wahlberg. These studies document the interplay between family environment and genetics in the development of schizophrenia spectrum disorders. 

Susan H McDaniel

 

 

 

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