Obituary: Gerald N. Grob (1931-2015)

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We are saddened to report the passing of historian Gerald N. Grob. Grob was Henry E. Sigerist Professor of the History of Medicine (Emeritus) at Rutgers University and its Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research. He was a pioneering historian of American psychiatry, the author of such influential works as The Mad Among Us, From Asylum to Community: Mental Health Policy in Modern America, and Mental Institutions in America: Social Policy to 1875. Colleagues and former students remember him especially fondly for his generosity, commitment to teaching, and measured analysis.

In 2012, Grob took part in our series “How I Became a Historian of Psychiatry.” His concluding comments there seeming a fit way to remember him:

In closing I must concede that a series of personal beliefs have clearly shaped my scholarly work. I have never held to the modern belief that human beings mold and control their world in predetermined and predictable ways. This is not in any way to suggest that we are totally powerless to control our destiny. It is only to insist upon both our fallibility and our inability to predict all of the consequences that follow our actions. Nor do I believe that human behavior can be reduced to a set of deterministic or quasi-deterministic laws or generalizations, or that solutions are readily available for all our problems. Tragedy is a recurring theme in human history and defines the parameters of our existence. I have always tried, therefore, to deal sympathetically with our predecessors who grappled–so often in partial and unsuccessful ways as we still do ourselves–with their own distinct problem.

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