Nathan S. Kline – A Pioneer of Psychopharmacological Drugs

Nathan S. Kline best known for his work with psychopharmacologic drugs

Nathan S. Kline best known for his work with psychopharmacologic drugs

On March 22, 1916American psychologist Nathan Schellenberg Kline was born. Kline is best known for his work with psychopharmacologic drugs. He pioneered in the biochemical treatment of mentally ill patients by introducing the use of such drugs as the antidepressants lithium and iproniazid and the tranquilizer resperin.

Nathan Schellenberg Kline attended the New York University School of Medicine. He founded a research unit at Rockland State Hospital New York, which later became the Rockland Psychiatric Center, one of three psychiatric institutes under the New York State Office of Mental Health. Kline and his colleagues found that the usual traditional therapies for the increasing number of mentally ill patients were outdated.

Kline and his colleagues began to investigate reserpine, a derivative of Rauwolfia serpentina. In India, it was used to treat mostly physical complaints and in the United States it was used to treat high blood pressureKline completed extensive tests with inpatients with the result that around 70% of their schizophrenia patients were relieved from their symptoms. For this important achievement, Nathan S. Kline and  his colleagues received the Lasker Award.

In his further research, Nathan S. Kline began to investigate antidepressants. Through Kline’s efforts, patients across the United States received antidepressants within a year. During the 1960sKline studied iproniazid, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor, in the treatment of severe depression with great success. Kline’s work in the field has been acknowledged as a major factor in opening a new era in psychiatry: psychopharmacology. Due to the increasing reputation of Nathan S. Kline and his colleagues, the Rockland Research Institute grew to more than 300 staff, attracting scientists from all over the world. Next to introducing new medicine, the institute further tested and improved the therapeutic doses of frequently used medications. Nathan S. Kline became the founder and director of the International Committee Against Mental Illness. He participated in programs to improve the medical treatment for mental illnesses in developing countries and traveled across the globe during his career to create and visit mental health clinics.

It is believed that during 1960, it was Nathan S. Kline along with the scientist, inventor, and musician Manfred Clynes who coined the term cyborg. They used it in an article in Astronautics Magazine about the advantages of self-regulating human-machine systems in outer space. Kline came to believe that computers could be used in large scale epidemiological studies and streamline the administration of complex health facilities and he monitored the installation of a major computer center at Rockland, funded by the Federal government. Kline’s efforts in the field provided significant progress of computerized medical systems,  further improving patient care.

Throughout his career, Nathan S. Kline wrote around 500 scientific publications, magazine and newspaper articles for the general public, as well as the book, “From Sad to Glad”.

At yovisto you can learn more about Bethlem Hospital: The history of the legendary institution for the mentally ill in a lecture by Colin Gale at Gresham College.

References and Further Reading:

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