History of the Introduction of Lithium into Medicine and Psychiatry: Birth of modern psychopharmacology 1949

ABOUT Johan Schioldann

Johan Schioldann
Johan Schioldann was born at Aalborg, Denmark, in 1941. He graduated in medicine from the University of Copenhagen and specialised in psychiatry. In 1984 he took up residence in Australia with his Australian wife. He is Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of Adelaide. 



This is the first work of its kind in twenty-five years. With it, Professor Johan Schioldann, of the University of Adelaide, lifts the lid on the early history of modern psychopharmacology.

Through meticulous research, Schioldann closes the gap that has plagued the history of lithium therapy for many years: the apparent ‘serendipity’ enjoyed by John Cade in his discovery of lithium’s effects on patients with mood disorders, and the origins of his ideas. This detailed study presents and evaluates layer upon layer of painstaking research in the
attempt to determine whether the oft-lauded Australian, John Cade, really was the father of lithium therapy.

Through insightful and detailed research, and often drawing on materials never before accessed, Schioldann’s History of the introduction of lithium into medicine and psychiatry traces the history of lithium therapy from Denmark in the latter part of the 1800s, through to Cade in the 1940s, and beyond. 

This work truly is an essential addition to the field of psychopharmacology. It is a must-have work for anybody involved in the fields of psychiatry, psychopharmacology, or the history of medicine.

"Professor Johan Schioldann’s scholarly account of his detailed and painstaking investigations into the early medical uses of lithium and, in particular, into the manner in which this remarkable element was introduced into psychiatric treatment, represents a major contribution to the study of the history medicine.

Although the ideas of Carl Lange, a Danish neuropathologist, and his brother Frederik (Fritz) Lange, a psychiatrist, have been referred to by a number of previous writers on the history of lithium therapy, it has fallen, fittingly, to one of their fellow countrymen to establish beyond any doubt the seminal importance of the work they carried out over a century ago. Adopting a narrative-analytical approach to his material, Schioldann has produced a rigorous and erudite account of a fascinating era in medical history, and has managed to do so in a wonderfully readable fashion.

Even those with little or no background in medicine will be enthralled by the story that unfolds in this book: a story of the way in which ideas become disseminated, and of the interactions between ideas and those whom they touch.

This book will be widely welcomed, not only by medical historians and by psychiatrists involved in the day-to-day practice of lithium therapy, but by all those who are fascinated by the way in which a deceptively simple chemical element led to a revolution in modern psychiatric medicine."

Dr. F. Neil Johnson, author of History of Lithium Therapy. London: McMillan, 1984.

"Armed with a historiography that most medics will empathise with, Professor Schioldann has tackled a hard problem and managed to advance the field. This advance not only concerns the history of lithium therapy, Schioldann providing penetrating analyses of the contributions of the Lange brothers in the late 1800s and John Cade in 1947–49, but also the history of psychopharmacology in general. He has re-mapped the field and shown that earlier maps were incomplete or inaccurate."

Emeritus Professor G. E. Berrios, Chair of the Epistemology of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge.