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A pioneering partnership: Aubrey & Hilda Lewis
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Aubrey and Hilda: 1934-1966

In 1937 Aubrey embarked on a tour of European psychiatric centres funded by the Rockefeller Centre, visiting clinics, hospitals, universities and research institutes in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Italy, Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

The resulting detailed report, never published in his lifetime, gives a comprehensive overview of the conduct of European psychiatric treatment and research just before World War Two. The fragile political situation in many of the countries he visited looms large, and his deliberate omission of Nazi Germany is very notable (see IOP/PP3/3/11).

On the outbreak of war, Hilda took the children to Canada. She worked as Psychiatric Physician, Ontario Hospital, and returned to England at the end of the war. Aubrey Lewis remained in London throughout, as Clinical Director, Mill Hill Emergency Hospital, where staff of the Maudsley treated both civilian and military psychiatric patients. He was also greatly in demand as an expert advisor, and served on more than a dozen committees, working on the psychological assessment of new recruits, the rehabilitation of psychiatric casualties of war, and planning for postwar mental health services.

From 1945, once back in England, Hilda worked as a psychiatric adviser to adoption charities. One of the legacies of the war was a huge increase in the number of abandoned and orphan children. In 1947, under Hilda’s direction, the Mersham Reception Centre for homeless children in Kent was opened. This pilot experimental centre was among the first to use psychiatric assessment in re-homing orphaned children, and ran for five years. She wrote an influential report on her findings, Deprived children: the Mersham experiment, a social and clinical study (Oxford University Press, 1954).

In 1946, Aubrey was appointed Professor of Psychiatry in the University of London, and the Institute of Psychiatry was created, as the training wing of the Maudsley Hospital and part of London University. He guided the Institute to become the foremost centre in the UK for the study of psychiatry.

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