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Max Fink papers span 65-year career of world-leading expert on electroconvulsive therapy


The transformative career of Max Fink, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology Emeritus at Stony Brook University, a world-leading expert and defender of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), is the focus of a new collection at the Stony Brook University Libraries.

Max Fink
Max Fink, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology Emeritus

The University recently announced the opening of the Max Fink Papers and Digital Collection. The digital collection, a subset of the papers, includes nearly 7,000 items (20,000 pages) of Dr. Fink’s original notes on experimental psychiatry, outgoing letters to colleagues, professional writings and an autobiographical memoir completed in 2017.

The archive documents the extraordinary career of the psychiatrist and neurologist, who founded the journal Convulsive Therapy, published the definitive medical textbook on ECT and has provided expertise and commentary in media productions, including as a consultant on A Beautiful Mind (2001), an Academy-award winning movie about schizophrenia.

“Dr. Fink’s pioneering research in the field of electroconvulsive shock therapy is of high research and scholarly value to students, faculty and to global researchers, and now that it is accessible digitally, it can get into the hands of more people, more quickly,” said Stony Brook University President Samuel Stanley Jr., MD. “He has had a transformational impact on the field of psychiatry, and we are honored to hold his collection at Stony Brook University.”

Comprised of nearly 250 linear feet (475 boxes) of research materials dating from the 1880s through 2017, the collection at SBU includes Dr. Fink’s notes, manuscripts, publications, correspondence, grant reports and visual materials on the study of convulsive therapy (electroshock), catatonia, melancholia, pharmaco-electroencephalography and psychopharmacology. Opening the papers will provide new opportunities for scholarship and insights into Dr. Fink’s pioneering research in these specialized areas of psychiatry.

The collection is the culmination of an extensive, multi-year effort of archival processing, cataloging and digitization, which was supported by Max and Martha Fink.

Dr. Fink’s studies of ECT began in 1952 at Hillside Hospital in New York. He has published prolifically for six decades on the use and effects of ECT.

Dr. Fink joined Stony Brook in 1973 and established — along with Stan Yolles, MD, founding Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Stony Brook — the first Psychiatry Unit at Stony Brook University Hospital. He also organized the ECT Service at Stony Brook, and organized studies of catatonia (an abnormality of movement and behavior arising from a disturbed mental state) that influenced the American Psychiatric Association to acknowledge that catatonia was independent of schizophrenia.


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