Dr. Philip S. Holzman ’39 founded and directed McLean Hospital’s Psychology Research Laboratory and became one of the world’s pre-eminent scientists in schizophrenia research.
He was the Esther and Sidney R. Rabb Professor of Psychology Emeritus and professor of psychology emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard University.
After receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1943 from the College of the City of New York, he trained at The Menninger Foundation School of Clinical Psychology and the Winter Veterans Administration Hospital in Topeka, as well as at the Topeka Institute for Psychoanalysis. From 1946 to 1968 he was on the staff of the Menninger Foundation, where he also served as director of research training.
While in Topeka, Dr. Holzman cofounded the Fine Arts Society, which arranged chamber music concerts for which he penned the program notes. Later in life he started taking cello lessons and eventually played in chamber music groups.
Among his published works is Theory of Psychoanalystic Technique, which he co-authored with Karl Menninger, MD. He was also a current consulting editor of The Bulletin of The Menninger Clinic.
He was a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Department of Behavioral Sciences at the University of Chicago from 1968 until joining the Harvard faculty in 1977.
Dr. Holzman began his career at McLean in 1977, focusing on the investigation of psychotic illnesses, particularly schizophrenia. He was an acknowledged master of the art of psychological experimentation.
In a speech to Menninger Clinic graduates in 1987 following his acceptance of the I. Arthur Marshall Distinguished Alumnus Award, Dr. Holzman declared that passionately inquisitive mental health professionals held the keys to improving treatment of mental illnesses.
Drawing on his time at Menninger, Dr. Holzman said: “Vigorous idealism, productive fertility and imagination crowned those days…In that atmosphere we learned to work collaboratively, to value the special perspectives of other disciplines and to broaden the scope of our own work. We learned that the puzzles of behavior are so complex that no one discipline alone will be privileged to solve them.”
Dr. Holzman’s landmark studies of oculomotor function documented the presence of abnormal smooth pursuit eye movements in individuals with schizophrenia and their clinically unaffected relatives. He appreciated early the value of studying unaffected family members and discovered that both eye tracking dysfunction and thought disorder occurred frequently in the relatives of individuals with schizophrenia.
With these discoveries, he founded an entire field of study central to the pathophysiology and genetic liability for schizophrenia. Dr. Holzman’s vision and ingenuity have left an indelible imprint on research in psychopathology and have stretched the power of psychology paradigms. This discovery changed the way scientists study schizophrenia, said Dr. Bruce Cohen, president and psychiatrist in chief at McLean Hospital, because it established the disease as a brain disorder.
Information care of the Menninger Clinic Alumni Association Newsletter, 2004.