Seymour Kety was a popular American neuroscientist who made psychiatry a rigorous branch of medicine. As a child, Kety couldn’t participate in athletic activities due to an injury to the foot and became deeply interested in chemistry, thanks to an intellectually inspiring atmosphere in the house and at school. The fact that, he even made a lab in his house and spent hours experimenting is a testimony to his dedication and passion, even as a child. No wonder the boy grew up to be a genius and came up with pioneering concepts in physiology, psychiatry and neuroscience. Establishing a strong link between genetics and schizophrenia and the usage of chelating agent to treat metal intoxication in kids are only a few in his plethora of achievements. He was awarded the Lasker Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science which is known as America’s Nobel Prize. Scroll down and learn all about the childhood, profile and career of this great mind.
Childhood & Education
Semyour S. Kety was born on 25th August, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a modest but intellectually inspiring family. As a child, he suffered an injury to his foot, inflicted by an automobile. Though not serious, it restricted his movements and deprived him from participating in athletic activities. This directed him more towards intellectual pursuits. Kety had his school education from Central High School in Philadelphia where he could pursue his interest in physical science and received lessons on both Greek and Latin. As a child, he became passionate about chemistry and had set up a lab in his house where he spent hours experimenting. Kety completed his medical studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1940 and completed his internship from Philadelphia General Hospital.
During his internship, Kety married Josephine Gross, his childhood friend who aspired to be a paediatrician. His association with Josephine might have persuaded Kety to do more research on the diseases related to children while in medical school and also during his internship. During those days, the doctors were worried about the growing cases of lead poisoning in children. Through his research Kety found out that chelating agents can be used in treating heavy metal intoxication.
In order to pursue his interest in lead poisoning, Kety obtained a post-doctoral fellowship from National Research Council in Harvard Medical School and decided to work under Joseph Aub who was a renowned researcher on lead poisoning. However, only after reaching there to begin his Fellowship Kety realised that Joseph Aub has changed his area of study. Aub was now pursuing studies related to traumatic and hemmoragatic shock which was more pressing as America was going through war. While working under Aub, Kety grew interested in the subject of the circulatory Physiology. Following this, he returned to the University of Pennsylvania where he worked with Carl Schmidt who was an expert in cerebral circulation. He also took up the position of a pharmacology instructor at the Pennsylvania University.
A great teacher, Kety was extremely popular among his students. His keen interest in cerebral circulation instilled in him a desire to know more about the process and the ways to calculate the flow of blood. The fruitful association between Kety and Schmidt resulted in an effective method to measure the flow of blood in the living brain, which was revolutionary. It was this method which led to the development of modern technologies such as PET scanning. In 1951, Seymour left Pennsylvania University and became the Scientific Director of the Intramural Research Programs of the newly established NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) and NINDB (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke). He is credited for setting up 200 laboratories for dedicated to study the various aspects of psychology and biology which contributes to the understanding of brain.
In 1956, Kety resigned as the scientific director to become the chief of the Laboratory of Clinical Science in NIMH where he set up a program of research on the biology of schizophrenia. There he worked on causes of schizophrenia and the genetical influences which cause the disease. In 1961, he left the institute to become the chairman of the psychiatry department at the John Hopkins University though he resigned, as clinical practise was his foremost priority and came back to the institute. In 1967, he moved to Harvard as a Psychiatric faculty. In 1983, he retired and worked as a senior psycho biologist at Mc Lean Hospital in Belmont in Mass. Seymour Kety died on 25 May 2000 in Westwood in Mass at the age of 84. At the time of his death, he was working as an ‘Emeritus Professor’ of neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.
Kety’s concepts and discoveries became the basis of several new theories. He changed the course of psychiatry in which he was never trained, by establishing a strong link between genetics and schizophrenia. He stated that genetic influences often lead to Psychosis. He researched a lot on cerebral circulation. He was also the first person to use a chelating agent to treat metal intoxication. His contribution to neuroscience is overwhelming.
Seymour Kety introduced innovative concepts in psychiatry, physiology and neuroscience. Being the first scientific director of National Institute of Mental Health, he set up 200 laboratories to study the various aspects of physiology and biology.
- The Transmission of schizophrenia; proceedings of the second research conference of the Foundations' Fund for Research in Psychiatry, Dorado, Puerto Rico, 26 June to 1 July 1967. (Co-authored)
- Amines and schizophrenia; [papers]. (co-authored)
- Genetics of neurological and psychiatric disorders.
- Regional neurochemistry; the regional chemistry, physiology, and pharmacology of the nervous system; proceedings. (co-authored)
- The pharmacology of psychotomimetic and psychotherapeutic drugs.
- Hevesy Pioneer Award, 1988
- Award in the Neurosciences from the National Academy of Sciences, 1988
- Lasker Award for Special Achievement in Medical Science, 1999