Leo Kanner

Leo Kanner (February 29, 1896 – April 3, 1981) was an American psychiatrist and physician known for his work related to autism.

Kanner’s work formed the foundation of child and adolescent psychiatry in the U.S. and worldwide.

Kanner was born in Ukraine to an orthodox Jewish family. He studied at the University of Berlin from 1913, his studies broken by service with the Austrian Army in World War I, finally receiving his M.D. in 1921. He emigrated to the United States in 1924 to take a position as an Assistant Physician at the State Hospital in Yankton County, South Dakota. In 1930 he was selected by Adolf Meyer and Edward Park to develop the first child psychiatry service in a pediatric hospital at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore. He became Associate Professor of Psychiatry in 1933.

As the first self-identified “child psychiatrist”, he was the founder of the first academic child psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, His first textbook, Child Psychiatry in 1935, was the first English language textbook to focus on the topic. His 1943 paper, “Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact”, along with the work of Hans Asperger, forms the basis of the modern study of autism.

He became Director of Child Psychiatry at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1930. He retired in 1959 and was replaced as Chief of Child Psychiatry by Leon Eisenberg.

Leo Kanner was the Editor for Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, then called Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia, from 1971 till 1974.