Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Benjamin Spock
Benjamin Spock "You know more than you think you do."

Benjamin Spock (1903–98)
MD 1929

"Trust Yourself," says the first chapter heading of the late Benjamin Spock's classic, Baby and Child Care, by far the best-selling child-rearing manual of all time. His advice, in a nutshell, was that parents know their own children best and should act accordingly - a revolutionary notion in an era when doctors and other child-care professionals occupied positions of virtually unimpeachable authority. In the years following World War II, the book quickly became the parenting bible, and remained an authoritative volume for the grown-up baby boomers and later their children, the parents of today. Drawing on Spock's background as a pediatrician and his six years studying psychoanalysis, the book challenged the traditional split between physical and mental health, slipping a pinch of Freud and healthy dollops of common sense in with the booster shots. A tireless political activist in later years, Spock repeatedly staked his reputation on the inseparability of pediatrics, politics, and peace.

Spock started medical school at Yale, where as a member of the Yale crew he won a gold medal at the Paris Olympics in 1924. He transferred to the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1927, graduated first in his class in 1929, and started a pediatrics practice. Drawing on his years of experiences with young patients and their parents, he published his best-known book, then entitled The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, in 1946. Now in its seventh edition, Baby and Child Care has been translated into 39 languages and has sold more than 50 million copies - more than any other save the Bible.

Adapted from P&S Journal, Fall 1993

Read more about Spock in the Columbia Encyclopedia.

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