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November 27, 1996

Dictators in the Mirror of Medicine

Author Affiliations

Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, Texas New York University Medical Center New York, NY

JAMA. 1996;276(20):1687-1688. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540200073038

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Psychobiography encourages considerable creativity and speculation. Dictators in the Mirror of Medicine is an engaging work by Professor Anton Neumayr, a Viennese internist, musician, and television series host, who "interprets the scientific research on the lives, works and medical histories of famous people."

Neumayr's purpose in this extensive, carefully studied psychobiography of Napoleon Bonaparte, Hitler, and Stalin, is to subject to medical study the "spectacular rise and catastrophic fall of each of these despots." This medical analysis "will not concern itself merely with clarifying their somatic diseases" but will create "a psychograph as well as a psychiatric, psycho-history, and above all, a criminal-psychological analysis" to bring some of their deeds and crimes "closer to our understanding." His audience is not only students of medicine and history, but anyone who is politically aware and curious about psychological analysis.

If the methodology of psychohistory is to be questioned, all eras and