William C. Menninger

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William C. Menninger
William Claire Menninger.jpg
Born William Claire Menninger
(1899-10-15)October 15, 1899
Topeka, Kansas, United States
Died September 6, 1966(1966-09-06) (aged 66)
Topeka, Kansas, United States
Occupation Psychiatrist
Spouse(s) Catharine Louisa Wright
Children Roy Wright Menninger
Philip Bratton Menninger
William Walter Menninger
Parent(s) Charles Frederick Menninger
Florence Vesta Menninger
Relatives Karl Menninger (brother)
Edwin Arnold Menninger (brother)
Ann Gottesman (grand-niece)

William Claire Menninger (October 15, 1899 – September 6, 1966) was a co-founder with his brother Karl and his father of The Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, which is an internationally known center for treatment of behavioral disorders.

Early life and education[edit]

Menninger was born in Topeka, Kansas, the son of Florence Vesta (Kinsley) and Charles Frederick Menninger.[1] He had an older brother Karl. He graduated from Washburn University in 1919, where his brother had gone, and followed his father and brother into medicine. William Menninger studied at the Cornell University College of Medicine in New York State, graduating in 1924.

After completing a two-year internship at Bellevue Hospital, he studied psychiatry at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C. in 1927.

Marriage and family[edit]

During his internship, he married Catherine Wright on December 11, 1925. They had three sons together: Roy W. Menninger, Philip B. Menninger, and W. Walter Menninger. They later each became active in the Boy Scouts, reaching the rank of Eagle Scouts, and each receiving the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.


In 1927 Menninger returned to Topeka, where he joined his father and brother Karl in their medical practice. By that time, they had already begun to specialize in psychiatry, a relatively new field in the United States. With his contributions, the Menninger Clinic evolved into the Menninger Sanitarium. Together they developed the Menninger Foundation. This non-profit organization has provided clinical services to both in- and out-patients, and engages in research, education, and social outreach.

Menninger was an early innovator and advocate for the use of bibliotherapy in treating mental illness. Along with his brother Karl, Menninger utilized bibliotherapy at the Menninger Clinic. Following the success of Karl's book, The Human Mind, Menninger presented a paper to the American Psychiatric Association in 1937. [2]

Boy Scouts[edit]

Menninger was involved with the Boy Scouts of America's Sea Scouts program in the 1930s. He was skipper of the S.S.S. Kansan, which was the National Flagship for 1931 and 1933. The skipper's manual which he wrote for the Kansas Sea Scouts was later used as the basis for the BSA's Handbook for Skippers. Menninger was also a member of the National Sea Scout Committee during this time. Each of his three sons later became active in the Scouts, attaining the rank of Eagle Scouts.

Second World War[edit]

At the outset of World War II, Menninger left the family foundation for an appointment as the Director of the Psychiatry Consultants Division in the office of the Surgeon General of the United States Army. He chaired the committee which produced document Medical 203, a major revision of existing US classification of mental disorders. It was adopted by all the armed services.

Following the war, this document strongly influenced the first mental disorders section of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases published in 1949. Its influence could be seen even more on the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published in 1952.[3] Menninger attained the rank of Brigadier General (O-7) in the U.S. Army.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Karl Menninger", from the Kansas Historical Society, at KWCH, September 28, 2011, accessed August 21, 2014
  2. ^ Rubin, R.J. (1978). Bibliotherapy: A guide to theory and practice, Phoenix, Oryx Press.
  3. ^ Houts, A.C. (2000) "Fifty years of psychiatric nomenclature: Reflections on the 1943 War Department Technical Bulletin, Medical 203", Journal of Clinical Psychology, 56 (7), Pages 935 - 967


  • Rebecca Jo Plant, "William Menninger and American psychoanalysis, 1946–48", History of Psychiatry, Vol. 16, No. 2, 181-202 (2005)

External links[edit]

  • [1] William C Menninger] In the Menninger Family Archives from Kansas State Historical Society.
  • Reproduction of 1943 War Department Technical Bulletin: Medical 203 from the Journal of Clinical Psychology. Original reproduction in the journal (JCLP, 1946) was "by courtesy of Brigadier General William C. Menninger, Office of the Surgeon General, Army Service Forces, Washington, D.C."