Leo Kanner

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Leo Kanner
Leo Kanner ca. 1955.
Born June 13, 1894
Klekotow, Austria-Hungary
Died April 3, 1981(1981-04-03) (aged 86)
Sykesville, Maryland, U.S.

Leo Kanner (pronounced "Kahner"; June 13, 1894 – April 3, 1981) was an Austrian American psychiatrist and physician known for his work related to autism.[1][2] Kanner's work formed the foundation of child and adolescent psychiatry in the U.S. and worldwide.[3]

His known life and career[edit]

Known background[edit]

Kanner was born on June 13, 1894, in Klekotow (now Klekotiv), a small village north of Brody (Galicia) in what was then Austria-Hungary and later became part of present-day Ukraine, to an orthodox Jewish family.[4] He studied at the University of Berlin from 1913, his studies broken by service with the Austrian Army in World War I, finally receiving his M.D. in 1921.

In the United States[edit]

He emigrated to the United States in 1924 to take a position as an Assistant Physician at the State Hospital in Yankton County, South Dakota. In 1930 he was selected by Adolf Meyer and Edward Park to develop the first child psychiatry service in a pediatric hospital at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore. He became Associate Professor of Psychiatry in 1933.

"Child psychiatry" begins[edit]

As the first self-identified "child psychiatrist," he was the founder of the first academic child psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, His first textbook, Child Psychiatry in 1935, was the first English language textbook to focus on the topic.

Studies of autism[edit]

Kanner's 1943 paper, "Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact," along with the work of Austrian Hans Asperger forms the basis of the modern study of autism.

He became Director of Child Psychiatry at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1930. He retired in 1959 and was replaced as Chief of Child Psychiatry by Leon Eisenberg.

Later years[edit]

Kanner was the Editor for Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, then called Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, from 1971 to 1974.

His death and his known survivors[edit]

Kanner died of heart failure at his home in Sykesville, Maryland, on April 3, 1981, at the age of 86. He was survived by his wife, June Lewin, and a son, Dr. Albert Kanner, an ophthalmologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine.[5] Dr. Kanner was also survived by his grandchildren, Sue Kanner Anthony, Jim Kanner, Steven Kanner, Jeffery Kanner, Lynn Gilbert Lempel, Mark Gilbert, and his great grandnephew Kyle Kanner. He was predeceased[when?] by his beloved daughter, Anita Gilbert.



  • 1928 Folklore of the Teeth
  • 1935 Child Psychiatry
  • 1941 In Defense of Mothers. How to Bring Up Children In Spite of the More Zealous Psychologists
  • 1973 Childhood Psychosis: Initial Studies and New Insights

Obituaries for Leo Kanner[edit]

  • Bender L (1982). "In Memoriam Leo Kanner, MD June 13, 1894—April 4, 1981". Journal of the American Academy of Child Psychiatry 21 (1): 88–89. doi:10.1097/00004583-198201000-00016. PMID 7047620. 
  • Schopler E., Chess S., Eisenberg L. (1981). "Our Memorial to Leo Kanner". Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 11: 257–269. doi:10.1007/bf01531509. 
  • D. Wilk: "In Memoriam Dr. Leo Kanner, 1894-1981. Koroth, Jerusalem, August 1982, 8: 213-220.
  • K.-J. Neumärker: "Leo Kanner: His Years in Berlin, 1906-24. The Roots of Autistic Disorder. History of Psychiatry, Chalfont St. Giles, Bucks, England, June 2003, 14 (2) 205-218 (14).
  • Eisenberg L. (1981). "Leo Kanner, M. D. 1894-1981". The American Journal of Psychiatry 138 (8): 1122–1125. 
  • Eisenberg L. (1994). "Leo Kanner, 1894-1981". The American Journal of Psychiatry 151 (5): 751. 


  1. ^ Bender L (1982). "In memoriam Leo Kanner, M.D. June 13, 1894–April 4, 1981". J Am Acad Child Psychiatry 21 (1): 88–9. doi:10.1097/00004583-198201000-00016. PMID 7047620. 
  2. ^ Sanua VD (1990). "Leo Kanner (1894–1981): the man and the scientist". Child Psychiatry Hum Dev 21 (1): 3–23. doi:10.1007/BF00709924. PMID 2204518. 
  3. ^ Neumärker KJ (2003). "Leo Kanner: his years in Berlin, 1906-24. The roots of autistic disorder". Hist Psychiatry 14 (54 Pt 2): 205–18. doi:10.1177/0957154X030142005. PMID 14518490. 
  4. ^ Autism Therapist (2010) http://theautismtherapist.blogspot.com/2010/03/leo-kanner.html
  5. ^ Bird, David (April 7, 1981). "DR. LEO KANNER, 86, CHILD PSYCHOLOGIST". The New York Times. Retrieved March 6, 2012.