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August Hoch (1868–1919) was the third director of the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City. As a neuropathologist and clinician, he exerted his influence on psychiatric developments during the early 20th century in the United States.
Hoch was born in Basel, Switzerland, the son of a minister, who was also director of the Basel University Hospital. At the age of 19, he emigrated to the United States to pursue his education. He spent two years at the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was influenced by Dr. William Osler. When Osler moved to The Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, Hoch followed to work at the Johns Hopkins outpatient neurological clinic and to pursue medical training at the University of Maryland. He received his M.D. degree from the University of Maryland in 1890. He remained an assistant to Osler in the clinic.
After several years, Hoch accepted a position at the McLean Psychiatric Hospital near Boston, Massachusetts, to develop the pathological and psychological laboratories and the clinical psychiatric programs. Before moving to McLean, he spent two years in Europe to study with Friedrich von Recklinghausen, a pathologist at the University of Strasbourg; with Wilhelm Wundt, a psychologist at the University of Leipzig; and with Emil Kraepelin, a psychiatrist at the University of Heidelberg. He married during his European trip.
Hoch returned to McLean in 1895 to take up his position. Professionally, he studied the relationships between personality and psychosis. He also served as an instructor in neuropathology at Tufts Medical School in Massachusetts. He returned to Europe to study with Franz Nissl, a medical researcher and neuropathologist at the University of Heidelberg; and with Constantin von Monakow, a neuropathologist in Zurich, Switzerland.
In 1905, Hoch moved to the Bloomingdale Hospital in White Plains, New York as its first assistant physician and special clinician. He became interested in psychoanalysis, which he believed would illuminate the field of human conduct. After four years at Bloomingdale, he was offered the directorship of the New York State Psychiatric Institute, following Dr. Adolf Meyer (psychiatrist) who was moving to the Johns Hopkins University. A major objective was to use the New York State Psychiatric Institute’s services as an educational locus for physicians working in the state hospitals.
Hoch was actively involved in psychiatric organizations. He was president of the New York Psychiatric Society in 1908 and in 1909; president of the American Psychopathological Society in 1913; and president of the American Psychoanalytical Society. He was a member of the American Neurological Society, the American Medico-Psychological Society (now the American Psychiatric Association), and the New York Neurological Society. He was a leader in planning a scientific psychiatric journal by the Institute titled Psychiatric Bulletin.
On 6 March 1913 Hoch introduced Eugen Bleuler's disease concept of schizophrenia to elite American alienists and neurologists for the first time during a meeting of the New York Psychiatrical Society. According to him, "all of them made a lot of fun at the term, but it is remarkable what one can get used to."
Hoch wrote one book, Benign Stupors: A Study of a New Manic-Depressive Reaction Type, and published many articles in psychiatric journals.
He retired from the New York State Psychiatric Institute in 1917 because of ill health and moved to California. He was the live-in psychiatrist for Stanley McCormick at his Riven Rock estate in Santa Barbara. He died in 1917 of nephritis. Hoch left a legacy of clinical observation in psychiatry and provided a major stimulus for scientific work in the state hospitals.
- Hoch, August. “The Relation of Insanity to the Psychoneuroses,” Lancet (Oct. 1910).
- Hoch, August. “The Dementia of the Cerebral Arteriosclerosis,” Psychiatric Bulletin of the New York State Hospitals 9(3) (July 1916): 306-315.
- Hoch, August. “Precipitating Mental Causes in Dementia Præcox,” The American Journal of Insanity 70(3) (January 1914): 637-648.
- Hoch, August. Benign Stupors: A Study of a New Manic-Depressive Reaction Type. New York: The Macmillan Co., 1921. https://archive.org/details/benignstuporsstu00hoch
- Noll, Richard (2011). American Madness:The Rise and Fall of Dementia Praecox. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 232. ISBN 978-0-674-04739-6.
- Noll, Richard (1999). "Styles of Psychiatric Practice, 1906-1925: Clinical Evaluations of the Same Patient by James Jackson Putnam, Adolf Meyer, August Hoch, emil Kraepelin and Smith Ely Jelliffe". History of Psychiatry. 10: 145–189. doi:10.1177/0957154x9901003801.
- Kolb, Lawrence C., and Leon Roizin. The First Psychiatric Institute: How Research and Education Changed Practice. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1993.
- "Obituary, Dr. August Hoch," The State Hospital Quarterly 5(1) (November 1919).