Tag Archives: biography

The Obituary of Albert Ellis

(originally published in the Obituary Section of The Guardian on August 10, 2007)

Albert Ellis (1913-2007)

Shyness was among the many problems successfully treated by the American psychotherapist Albert Ellis, who has died aged 93. But it was not an affliction that it was wise to bring along to his legendary Friday night workshops, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side: there, patients were hauled up on stage in front of an audience of hundreds, to be rigorously cross-questioned by Ellis, usually with plenty of swearing. “Let me tell you why people are always making you so angry,” he informed a troubled young woman, one warm evening in 2005. “Because they’re screwed up! They’re out of their fucking minds! We’re all out of our fucking minds!”

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The Writ of Cherum Against Spinoza

Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677)

On July 27, 1656 the Jewish community issued the writ of cherum against Baruch Spinoza — its harshest form of excommunication.  The language of the writ is unusually harsh, but it does not state with certainty the reasons for its issuance.  According to philosopher and Spinoza biographer, Steven Nadler, it is likely that the writ was issued because Spinoza “was giving utterance to just those ideas that would soon appear in his philosophical treatises.  In those works, Spinoza denies the immortality of the soul; strongly rejects the notion of a providential God — the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and claims that the Law was neither literally given by God nor any longer binding on Jews.  Can there be any mystery as to why one of history’s boldest and most radical thinkers was sanctioned by an orthodox Jewish community?”

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Dr. William Duncan Silkworth, M.D.

Dr. William Silkworth, M.D.

Dr. William Silkworth, M.D.

Born in 1873, Dr. William D. Silkworth, M.D. gaduated from Princeton University in 1896 and earned his medical degree from New York University in 1900.  While in medical school, Dr. Silkworth interned at Bellevue Hospital where he first discovered his passion for treating alcoholics.  Thereafter, he was a member of the psychiatric staff at the U.S. Army Hospital in Plattsburgh, New York during World War I from 1917 to 1919.  He served as an associate physician at the Neurological Institute of Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan from 1919 to 1929 and is believed to have specialized in neurology.  After incurring substantial losses in the stock market crash of 1929, Dr. Silkworth accepted the medical directorship at Charles B. Towns Hospital in New York which specialized in the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction.

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