In Memoriam: Dr. Samuel Ritvo, Pioneer in Psychoanalysis and Psychiatry

Dr. Samuel Ritvo, a leader in psychoanalysis and child psychiatry who was a faculty member for nearly six decades at the Yale Child Study Center, died on Dec. 3 at age 91.

Ritvo’s research interests included longitudinal studies of child development, eating disorders, anxiety and adolescent development. His studies were a pioneering attempt to understand the unfolding of normal development through the lens of psychoanalysis.

He initially came to Yale to work with Ernst Kris, a contemporary of Sigmund Freud in Vienna, on Kris’ landmark project, the Longitudinal Study of the Child. Ritvo continued his work on that project through this autumn, when he wrote a summary article about one of the initial participants, now a 57-year-old woman.

Born November 4, 1917, in New Haven, Ritvo graduated from Harvard College in 1938 and earned his M.D. from Yale in 1942. He trained in pediatrics at the University of Minnesota and in pediatrics and psychiatry at Columbia University in New York. He joined the Yale faculty in 1950 as part of the reorganization of what became the Child Study Center, and held the rank of clinical professor of psychiatry from 1965 until his retirement in 2007.

The first director of training in child psychiatry at Yale, Ritvo was a training and supervising analyst at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and the Western New England Institute of Psychoanalysis in New Haven. He was a founding member of the latter. He was past president of the American Psychoanalytic Association and the Association for Child Psychoanalysis and a founding member of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He was a fellow of Branford College at Yale.

A highly respected teacher and clinician, Ritvo trained generations of child psychiatrists. He and his wife endowed an annual Samuel and Lucille Ritvo Lecture at the Yale Child Study Center, first given May 13, 2007. He continued to treat psychotherapy patients through July 2008 when he and his wife moved to Maryland to live with their daughter and her family.

Ritvo is survived by his wife, Lucille Ritvo ‘72 Ph.D.; their daughter, Rachel Ritvo ‘77 M.D., of Kensington, Maryland; their sons, David Ritvo ‘74 M.D., of Berkeley, California, and Dr. Jonathan Ritvo, of Denver, Colorado; and seven grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 12, at the Joseph Slifka Center, 80 Wall St., with burial to follow at Grove Street Cemetery. Sympathy messages may be sent to the family c/o Dr. Rachel Ritvo, 4020 Everett St., Kensington, MD 20895.

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