The process of separation of psychiatry and neurology in the Netherlands

Paul ELING1 ; Peter KOEHLER2

1Department of Psychology, University of Nijmegen, P.O.Box 9104, 6500 HE Nijmegen, The Netherlands
2Department of Neurology, De Wever Hospital, P.O.Box 4446, 6401 CX Heerlen, The Netherlands


In this paper we describe the evolution of psychiatry and neurology into two separate academic disciplines in the Netherlands. The founding of psychiatric asylums and the organization of a governmental care system, triggered by a new law in 1841, characterized the first phase. Schroeder van der Kolk played a central role in the reforms. The struggles at universities for separate courses in psychiatry (including neurology) and the founding of chairs began around 1880. Influenced by German neuropsychiatry, psychiatry in the Netherlands became biologically oriented. Winkler, the first professor of psychiatry in Utrecht in 1893, was a strong advocate of integrated teaching in psychiatry and neurology.

At the turn of the century, progress in localization doctrine, neurological examination and technological innovations, stimulated further evolution of independent neurology. At the same time, several psychiatrists noticed a lack of success of treatment of psychiatric patients, based on biological views. Jelgersma, professor of psychiatry in Leiden, who may be considered one of the best neuroanatomists of this period, was disappointed in the biological approach and converted to psychoanalysis. The first splitting into a separate neurological and psychiatric chair occurred in Amsterdam in 1923. Following a long period of splittings of other university chairs, splitt-offs of small specialist groups from the Society of Psychiatry and Neurology, and several reform proposals on teaching, the separation of the Society into two independent societies completed the separation process in 1974.


Plenary 7   (Mathilde Wesendonck Lecture)
Saturday, 18 September 1999

The Neurosciences and Psychiatry: Crossing the Boundaries

Joint Congress of the European Association for the History of Psychiatry (EAHP), the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN), and the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland, 13-18 September 1999