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Karl Menninger

Karl Menninger

American psychiatrist
Karl Menninger
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American psychiatrist
A.K.A. Karl Augustus Menninger
Was Writer Psychiatrist Academic Non-fiction writer
From United States of America
Type Education Healthcare Literature
Gender male
Birth 22 July 1893, Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, U.S.A.
Death 18 July 1990, Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas, U.S.A. (aged 97 years)
Star sign Cancer
Siblings: William C. Menninger
Karl Menninger
The details (from wikipedia)


Karl Augustus Menninger (July 22, 1893 – July 18, 1990) was an American psychiatrist and a member of the Menninger family of psychiatrists who founded the Menninger Foundation and the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas.


Menninger was born on July 22, 1893 in Topeka, Kansas, the son of Florence Vesta (Kinsley) and Charles Frederick Menninger. In addition to studying at Washburn University, Indiana University and the University of Wisconsin–Madison, he also studied medicine at Harvard Medical School. He graduated from the school cum laude in 1917. While at Washburn, he was a member of the Alpha Delta Fraternity, a local group. In 1960 he was inducted into the school's Sagamore Honor Society.

Beginning with an internship in Kansas City, Menninger worked at the Boston Psychopathic Hospital and taught at Harvard Medical School. In 1919, he returned to Topeka where, together with his father, he founded the Menninger Clinic. By 1925, they had attracted enough investors, including brother William C. Menninger, to build the Menninger Sanitarium. His book, The Human Mind, which explained the science of psychiatry, was published in 1930.

The Menninger Foundation was established in 1941. After World War II, Karl Menninger was instrumental in founding the Winter Veterans Administration Hospital, in Topeka. It became the largest psychiatric training center in the world. He was among the first members of the Society for General Systems Research.

In 1946 he founded the Menninger School of Psychiatry. It was renamed in his honor in 1985 as the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mental Health Science. In 1952, Karl Targownik, who would become one of his closest friends, joined the Clinic.

Personal life

Karl Menninger with his wife Jeanette in 1974

Menninger married Grace Gaines in 1916, with whom he had three children: Martha, Julia and Robert. The couple divorced in February 1941. Menninger remarried on September 9, 1941, taking Jeanette Lyle as his wife. Together they adopted a daughter named Rosemary in 1948.

In popular culture

  • Author Chaim Potok quoted Menninger on the dedication page of his novel, The Chosen (1967).
  • Renee Richards quoted Menninger on the dedication page of her memoir, Second Serve (1983).
  • In the 1995 biographical film Killer: A Journal Of Murder, Menninger is portrayed by John Bedford Lloyd , as the psychiatrist in charge of testing the sanity of serial killer Carl Panzram.


During his career, Menninger wrote a number of influential books. In his first book, The Human Mind, Menninger argued that psychiatry was a science and that the mentally ill were only slightly different from healthy individuals. In The Crime of Punishment, Menninger argued that crime was preventable through psychiatric treatment; punishment was a brutal and inefficient relic of the past. He advocated treating offenders like the mentally ill.

His subsequent books include The Vital Balance, Man Against Himself and Love Against Hate.


  • In 1981, Menninger was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.
  • In 1985, the Menninger School of Psychiatry was named for him.

Letter to Thomas Szasz

On October 6, 1988, less than two years before his death, Karl Menninger wrote a letter to Thomas Szasz, author of The Myth of Mental Illness.

In the letter, Menninger said that he has just read Szasz's book Insanity: The Idea and Its Consequences. Menninger wrote that neither of them liked the situation in which insanity separates men from men and free will is forgotten. After recounting the lack of scientific method in psychology over the years, Menninger expressed his regret that he did not come over to a dialogue with Szasz.


Menninger has written several books and articles. A selection:

  • 1930. The Human Mind. Garden City, NY: Garden City Pub. Co.
  • 1931. From Sin to Psychiatry, an Interview on the Way to Mental Health with Dr. Karl A. Menninger [by] L. M. Birkhead. Little Blue Books Series #1585. Girard, Kansas: Haldeman-Julius Press.
  • 1938. Man Against Himself. New York: Harcourt, Brace.
  • 1950. Guide to Psychiatric Books; with a Suggested Basic Reading List. New York: Grune & Stratton.
  • 1952. Manual for Psychiatric Case Study. New York: Grune & Stratton.
  • 1958. Theory of Psychoanalytic Technique. New York: Basic Books.
  • 1959. A Psychiatrist’s World: Selected Papers. New York: Viking Press.
  • 1963. The Vital Balance: The Life Process in Mental Health and Illness. New York: Viking Penguin.
  • 1968. Das Leben als Balance; seelische Gesundheit und Krankheit im Lebensprozess. München: R. Piper.
  • 1968. The Crime of Punishment. New York: Penguin Books.
  • 1972. A Guide to Psychiatric Books in English [by] Karl Menninger. New York: Grune & Stratton.
  • 1973. Whatever Became of Sin?. New York: Hawthorn Books.
  • 1978. The Human Mind Revisited: Essays in Honor of Karl A. Menninger. Edited by Sydney Smith. New York: International Universities Press.
  • 1985. Conversations with Dr. Karl Menninger (sound recording)
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