BENJAMIN SPOCK Biography - Famous Medicine & health care related men and women


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Dr. Benjamin Spock, 1903-1998                                                             
His life covered most of the last century. His influence will reach far into the         
next. He was, and will always be, a man for all children.                                 
The man who would become, somewhat to his own astonishment, the most trusted             
pediatrician and best-selling author of all time was born in New Haven,                   
Connecticut, on May 2, 1903. As the eldest of six children, Benjamin McLane               
Spock was immersed in the world of childcare at an early age, helping to change           
diapers, babysit, feed, and otherwise attend to his siblings. His parents, a             
prominent lawyer and a devoted mother, ran a strict household and harbored high           
expectations for their offspring.                                                         
Benjamin Spock readily absorbed these standards, attending Phillips Academy in           
Andover, Massachusetts, and then Yale University, like his father before him. At         
Yale, Spock studied literature and history and excelled in athletics, even               
earning a spot on the Olympic rowing crew that won a gold medal at the 1924               
games. He attended the Yale School of Medicine for two years and then                     
transferred to Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons in New           
York, where he graduated first in his class in 1929. By that time, he had                 
married Jane Cheney and soon had two sons, Michael and John.                             
While specializing in pediatrics, Spock realized that he could best help his             
young patients and their parents if he gained a greater understanding of their           
psychological needs and family dynamics. With the dedication and intensity that           
marked his every endeavor, he studied psychoanalysis for six years, making him           
the only practicing pediatrician of his time with this combination of training.           
The more he talked with parents and studied the psychological and emotional               
aspects of childhood, the more convinced he became that much of the prevailing           
wisdom of the day was flawed. And, in 1946, he was given the chance to publish           
his iconoclastic views in The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, a tome           
he penned for Pocket Books that initially sold for a modest 25 cents.  During             
Spock's long lifetime, his book would be translated into 39 languages and sell           
more than 50 million copies, making it second in sales only to the Bible.                 
Spock's ideas have become such a part and parcel of the parenting landscape that         
it's easy to forget how revolutionary they were. In post-war America, parents             
were in awe of doctors and other childcare professionals; Spock assured them             
that parents were the true experts on their own children. They had been told             
that picking up infants when they cried would only spoil them; Spock countered           
that cuddling babies and bestowing affection on children would only make them             
happier and more secure. Instead of adhering to strict, one-size-fits-all                 
dictates on everything from discipline to toilet training, Spock urged parents           
to be flexible and see their children as individuals.                                     
Perhaps most revolutionary of all, he suggested that parenting could be fun,             
that mothers and fathers could actually enjoy their children and steer a course           
in which their own needs and wishes also were met. All this and much more,               
including a wealth of helpful medical advice, was delivered in a friendly,               
reassuring, and common-sense manner completely at odds with the cold                     
authoritarianism favored by most other parenting books of the time.                       
With characteristic modesty, Spock never would have predicted the overwhelming           
success that Baby and Child Care would come to enjoy. He once admitted that if           
he had known that his editors were entrusting him with producing the most                 
influential parenting book ever written, he would have replied, "I don't know             
enough." As it turned out, he knew plenty--Baby and Child Care was an instant             
success with parents and struck a chord with other progressive doctors and               
childcare practitioners. During Spock's long lifetime, the book would go through         
seven editions, be translated into 39 languages, and sell more than 50 million           
copies, making it second in sales only to the Bible.                                     
As his celebrity grew in the '50s and '60s, Spock worked feverishly on behalf of         
children and parents. He taught child development at Western Reserve University           
(now Case Western) in Cleveland, Ohio, for 12 years, wrote many other books on           
childcare, and lectured around the world. He even had a television program               
devoted to the concerns of families. Dr. Spock had become a household name.               
As the Cold War escalated and American troops were sent to Vietnam, he became a           
vocal political activist, speaking out for disarmament and against the war in             
Southeast Asia. To Spock, this was just another way of protecting the young               
people to whom he was so devoted. His political views made him unpopular in some         
circles and hurt the sales of Baby and Child Care, but he persisted, convinced           
that politics was an essential part of pediatrics. He participated in anti-nuclear       
demonstrations well into his 80s and 90s, and ran for President on a third-party         
ticket in 1972, speaking out on issues concerning working families, children,             
and minorities.                                                                           
In 1976, he married his second wife, Mary Morgan, who became a valued                     
collaborator. They traveled the country, lecturing and writing, and co-authored           
the memoir Spock on Spock in 1985. A man who witnessed the birth of the                   
automobile as well as the Internet, Spock prided himself in keeping up with the           
times, a fact that's reflected in the many revisions of Baby and Child Care in           
which he incorporated the latest medical developments and dealt with emerging             
social issues such as working mothers, daycare centers, and single parenthood.           
Throughout his life, Spock remained a tireless and courageous advocate for               
children and families, and his legacy will remain a source of knowledge and               
inspiration for parents for generations to come.