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Sir Aubrey Julian Lewis, FRCP, FRCPsych (8 November 1900- 21 January 1975), was the first Professor of Psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, London, and is credited with being a driving force behind the flowering of British psychiatry after World War II as well as raising the profile of the profession worldwide.

Early life[]

Aubrey Julian Lewis was born on 8 November 1900 in Adelaide, the only child of Jewish parents George Solomon Lewis, an accountant from England, and his South Australian-born wife Ré Lewis, née Isaacs, an elocution teacher. He was educated at Christian Brothers College, Adelaide, Wakefield Street, where he proved to be a gifted pupil. He went on to study medicine at the University of Adelaide and graduated with distinction in 1923 (M.B., B.S.).[1]


Lewis worked at the Royal Adelaide Hospital for two years and undertook anthropological research on Aborigines. In 1926 he accepted a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in psychological medicine. This brought him to the Phipps Clinic under the mentorship of Adolf Meyer, whom he respected and admired greatly, and whose work he praised in lectures such as the Adolf Meyer Lecture in 1960.[2] This was the start of two years postgraduate study performed in the USA and thence on to Germany. Lewis then moved to the United Kingdom and joined the staff of the Maudsley Hospitalin London in 1928. In, 1931 he received his M.D. from the University of Adelaide and in 1936 he became Clinical Director of the hospital [2]. In 1938 he became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.

Institute of Psychiatry[]

In 1946 the Maudsley Hospital was designated the Institute of Psychiatry under the auspices of the University of London and Lewis was appointed to the inaugural Chair of Psychiatry at the institute. He held this post until his retirement in 1966. It has been said that the flowering of British psychiatry after World War II can be attributed to three factors: a long humanitarian tradition; the National Health Service and Aubrey Lewis.[2] Lewis built a reputation as a leader, educator and administrator and is credited with moulding the Institute into a model of scientific research and teaching attracting many of the most promising medical graduates from around the world. He is also credited with raising the profile of psychiatry worldwide, through his work as an adviser to general medical bodies, national and international research councils, and political organizations. He was a member of the Advisory Committee on Medical Research of the World Health Organisation.[2]

Many esteemed psychiatrists worked under the direction of Lewis at the Institute of Psychiatry, including Martin Roth and Michael Shepherd; the latter was at great pains to point out that Lewis's impact also extended to his contributions as a clinician, scholar and researcher, particularly in the field of epidemiology[1], but also genetics, clinical phenomenology and biology. He was perhaps most well known for his studies of melancholia and obsessional illness, and indeed guided the young Michael Shepherd on his research into morbid jealousy.

Honours and awards[]

Family and Personal Life[]

On 22 February 1934 at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St Marylebone, he had married Hilda North Stoessiger, also a psychiatrist. Hilda died in 1966 which affected Aubrey greatly. They had two daughters and two sons, all of whom survived Lewis. Lewis died on 21 January 1975 in Charing Cross Hospital, London. A memorial service was held in April at the synagogue in which he had been married.

Sir Aubrey was known to have an austere appearance, which was captured in the painter, Ruskin Spear's official portrait of 1966. However, to those who knew him his high standards of personal and professional integrity went with a warm, kindly, humorous disposition which earned him the affection of colleagues and friends.[1] Michael Shepherd described him as a "representative man" in Emerson's sense of the term[3].

The man Adelaide forgot[]

It had been noted by a number of commentators, including Michael Shepherd, that Lewis’ reputation, achievements and qualities were recognized during his lifetime, except, paradoxically, in his native land. This lack of recognition began to be addressed in the decade following his death. On 5 November 1981 a memorial plaque was unveiled in his honour, having been sponsored by the South Australian Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, the University of Adelaide and the South Australian Association for Mental Health. The plaque is placed in the foyer of the Florey lecture theatre. The last line reads:

“He was a leading figure in British Commonwealth Psychiatry in the mid-20th century era, exerting great influence through his scholarship and inspirational qualities.”[4]

In 1990 an Aubrey Lewis unit was opened at Royal Park Hospital, Melbourne which prompted a newspaper article entitled, 'The man Adelaide forgot'. It began: 'Had Aubrey Lewis gone to St Peter's College and been interested in field sports his name would probably be well known to generations of South Australians. But he was Jewish, went to a Catholic school, his father was a nobody and he lived up the east end of Rundle Street - definitely the wrong side of the tracks for a prejudicial, parochial Adelaide of the 1920s'. However, writers have pointed out that these reasons for the lack of recognition of Lewis in South Australia should be tempered by two other factors, namely that for much of Lewis’ lifetime psychiatry had a traditionally inferior status, and perhaps more importantly for the latter part of his life he was unable through illness to revisit the country of his birth.


  • The State of Psychiatry, Inquiries in Psychiatry (London, 1967)
  • The Later Papers of Sir Aubrey Lewis (Oxford, 1977)

Further reading[]

  • M. Shepherd and D. L. Davies (eds), Studies in Psychiatry (Lond, 1968);
  • M. Shepherd, A Representative Psychiatrist (Cambridge, Eng, 1986);
  • M. Shepherd, Sir Aubrey Lewis (Melb, 1991); Psychiatry and Social Science Review, 3, 1969, p 6;
  • Journal of Psychiatric Research, 17, 1983, p 93;
  • Times (London), 22 Jan 1975;
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 10 Mar 1990.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Michael Shepherd, 'Lewis, Sir Aubrey Julian (1900 - 1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, Melbourne University Press, 2000, pp 91-92.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Michael Shepherd, Aubrey Lewis 1900-1975, American Journal of Psychiatry, 132:8, August 1975, p872
  3. A representative man being the rare individual who provides "a colyrium to clear our eyes from egotism"
  4. Issy Pilowsky on Australian tribute to the late Sir Aubrey Lewis in 1981

External links[]

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