Benjamin Spock   [1903-1998]

Notable Dutch-American

Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose Dutch ancestors spelled their family name as Spaak, was the famous pediatrician/family doctor/psychiatrist who wrote the world famous manual on how to raise babies and children, especially the “boomer” generation children. His book on child care and raising children was first published in 1946. It was entitled, “Baby and Child Care”. Over its life time the book sold over 50 million copies in the English language and was translated in 30 foreign languages. It clearly became the bible of baby and child care during the second half of the twentieth century.

Benjamin Spock was born on May 2, 1903 in New Haven, Connecticut. He was the oldest of six children. His father was an attorney, presumably practicing law in New Haven. Spock attended Yale, University, clearly close to home, and graduated with his undergraduate degree in 1924. While at Yale he was on the crew team and helped the U. S. crew team win a gold medal in the 1924 Olympics. Spock then entered Columbia University’s Medical School and earned his M. D. Degree. After being awarded the M. D. Degree, he also studied at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute to prepare for a Psychiatry specialty, which he completed.

In 1933, the now Dr. Spock went into private practice in New York City, and practiced medicine until 1943. He was then called into military service and served in the U. S. Naval Reserve Medical Corps until 1946. He left military service as a lieutenant commander.

 In 1947 Dr. Spock was offered a position at the University of Minnesota Medical School to teach psychiatry. He remained there until 1951, when he took a position at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School as a Professor of Child Development. In 1955, he changed positions and went to Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio, again presumably as a Professor of Child Development.

His book, “Baby and Child Care”, was published in 1946, and was apparently written during the period he was with the U. S. Naval Reserve Medical Corps. The book clearly provided him with an enormous reputation as an expert on baby and child care, and that probably explains why he was asked to teach child development at the University of Pittsburgh in 1951. Dr. Spock apparently remained at Case Western Reserve until his retirement because no information could be found on his professional work environment beyond 1951.

Dr. Spock’s theories on baby and child care were rather radical when he first proposed them in the first edition of his book in 1946. Prior to that time, both baby and child care practices had been rather rigid. Dr. Spock, on the other hand, advised against rigidity and recommended a more relaxed attitude with the upbringing of babies and children. He had numerous critics who felt Dr. Spock’s approach would ruin the future youth and adults in America. When the demonstrations against the Viet Nam War occurred in the late sixties, many critics blamed it on Dr’ Spock’s advice which had been adopted by too many parents. Spiro Agnew, Vice President, during Nixon’s Administration, even accused Dr. Spock of having corrupted the youth of America in a speech in the seventies.

Possibly because of the accusations, Dr. Spock became quite a protester himself in the late sixties and the early seventies. In 1967 he participated in the March on the Pentagon against the war in Viet Nam. In 1968, Dr. Spock was accused and convicted of counseling youth on how to avoid the draft. The conviction was subsequently overturned, and fortunately so. He even got so caught up in the politics of that time period that he agreed to run for the U. S. presidency on the Peoples Party ticket in 1972. He received 75,000 votes, only causing a ripple at best.

Dr. Spock was married to Jane Cheney in 1927. The couple had two children, Michael and John. He remained married to Jane for 48 years when the couple divorced. He subsequently married Mary Morgan in 1976. She was 40 years his junior. The couple remained married until Spock’s death on March 15, 1998. He was then just six weeks away from his 95th birthday.

 

REFERENCES

Dr. Benjamin Spock dies at 94

 

E-BOOKS AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON; GOOGLE: Kindle Store Pegels

 

PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS, CURRENT AND HISTORIC

EIGHT PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE ROOSEVELTS, VANDERBILTS AND OTHERS, 2015

FIFTEEN PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE VAN BURENS, KOCH BROTHERS, VOORHEES AND OTHERS, 2015

PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS IN U.S. GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP POSITIONS, 2015

 

DUTCH PEGELS INVOLVED IN WARS

ALLIED EUROPE CAMPAIGN—1944/1945: TACTICAL MISTAKES, 2017

THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN THE NETHERLANDS: MEMOIRS, 2017

FRENCH REVOLUTION, NAPOLEON AND RUSSIAN WAR OF 1812, 2015

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