Reiss, Max 1900 - 1970


(1900-1970), endocrinologist

Max Reiss was born in Stanislau (now Ivano-Frankivsk), western Ukraine on 1 May 1900. He received his medical education from the German University of Prague and worked as a demonstrator and assistant in the clinic of endocrinologist Artur Biedl (1869-1930) before qualifying in 1925. After this, Reiss expanded his clinical and experimental interests in endocrinology, particularly focusing on the influence of gonadal and anterior pituitary hormones on metabolic processes.

With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, Reiss was forced to flee from Prague and came to Britain on the invitation of neuropsychiatrist Frederick Lucien Golla (1878-1968). Golla provided Reiss with a research post at the Burden Neurological Institute, Bristol, an independent research unit specialising in the investigation and treatment of neurological, psychological, and psychiatric disorders. Reiss later became Director of the Institute’s Endocrinological Department.

While at the Burden, Reiss was a key player in establishing the field of ‘psychoneuroendocrinology’ (the study of the interactions between genetics and hormones in cases of psychiatric illness and mental disability) and encouraged the expansion of endocrinological treatments in various Bristol psychiatric hospitals. In the early 1960s, Reiss promoted this approach in the United States through his new role as Director of Psychiatric Research at the Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, New York, where he made several investigations into potential links between mental disability and reduced growth hormone levels. Willowbrook later attained international notoriety for hepatitis experiments conducted on children in its care and was shut down in 1987.

Max Reiss died suddenly of an embolism in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire on 27 July 1970.