Lewis Judd, 1930–2019
The psychiatrist who championed brain science
Judd was born in Los Angeles to a homemaker mother and an obstetrician-gynecologist father, said The San Diego Union-Tribune. After earning degrees in psychology and medicine, “he served in the Air Force as a base psychiatrist” before joining UCLA’s psychiatry faculty. Judd’s “early research focused on phenylketonuria, a rare metabolic disease that can cause neurological problems,” said The Scientist. Those studies led him to ask whether other mental illnesses could also be a result of biological functions in the brain. If they were, he wondered, could they be treated with drugs? Judd soon became one of the nation’s top advocates for evidence-based psychiatry, and after being appointed department chair at UC San Diego in 1977, he helped make the college into a world leader in brain research.
He remained at the school until 2015, only stepping away to lead NIMH, said The New York Times. At the federal agency, the world’s largest source of funding for brain research, he launched the Decade of the Brain—an ambitious plan to map all the elements of brain function. Today, “much about the organ remains elusive,” but scientists credit him with moving his profession away from the “art” of Freud’s and Jung’s talk therapies. “The thing I’m most proud of,” he said in 2013, “is how psychiatry is becoming increasingly recognized as a real biomedical science.”