RESPONDING TO HARRY KROTO’S BRILLIANT RENOWNED ACADEMICS!! The best tribute I have read on the life of John Raymond Smythies

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. John Raymond Smythies on January 28, 2019 in La Jolla, CA, and this tribute below is the best I have read.

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Well into his 80’s, John decided to join the world-famous neuroscience team lead by Dr. Ramachandran, in California and remained active until a few months before his demise in January this year. A tribute by Prof. Ashoka, exclusively in Different Truths. 

I have always harboured the belief that psychiatry over the years has lost a large part of its sheen because of its reluctance to encompass the entire scope of the discipline. Many if not most of its dimensions are completely ignored in the training process, which suffocates the specialty to a large extent.

One of the foremost pioneers to challenge this status quo was John Raymond Smythies. As he had deviated from the mainstream, he is not as widely known as his contribution merits.

John was born in Nainital where his father was a philatelist in 1922. His more than fluent Hindi had its provenance to his various interactions with his playmates and father’s colleagues with whom he retained lifelong contact. Following his relocation to the United Kingdom, he completed his medical training in Cambridge and then worked with the Royal Navy in Bermuda, which is where he developed an interest in psychiatry.

But he was very clear that he did not wish to step into his discipline unless he had what he regarded as ‘proper grounding.’ He therefore decided to train as a neuroscientist under the Nobel Laureate, Sir John Eccles. While still a neuroscience researcher, he appreciated the philosophico-anthropological contribution to the understanding of mental health and developed a deep friendship with Aldous Huxley. He then moved to the United States where he formally trained and obtained a masters’ in philosophy and submitted his dissertation to the University of Cambridge, which earned him an M.D.

Only then did he consider himself ready to undergo psychiatric training at the Maudsley Hospital under Sir Aubrey Lewis. He then felt he needed some grounding in biochemistry and worked with John Osmond for two years before taking up a clinical assignment. He spent 12 years in Edinburgh at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital (where I trained).

His orientation quite frequently put him at odds with his colleagues, but he persisted, nevertheless. He noticed that mescaline could produce schizophrenia like symptoms and published a hypothesis that came to be the first biological explanation for schizophrenia and was popularised as ‘transmethylation hypothesis’. This created quite a lot of excitement in those days. But he firmly believed that in order to fully comprehend schizophrenia, one needed a philosophical orientation along with a neurobiological.

He moved to Alabama to take up an endowed chair in psychiatry and remained there for over 20 years continuing with his neurobiological-philosophical research in psychiatric disorders. He was an absolute delight to listen to and a regular at both neuroscience and philosophical conclaves. Well into his 80’s, he decided to join the world-famous neuroscience team lead by Dr. Ramachandran, in California, and remained active until a few months before his demise in January this year.

Somehow the sad news took its time to reach me. There are many, me included, who looked to him for inspiration and were always rewarded with effusive hospitality over meals at his place, where he lived with his Italian wife.

I mourn the passing away of a pioneer. We shall not see the likes of him again!

©Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad

Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad is a physician /psychiatrist holding doctorates in pharmacology, history and philosophy plus a higher doctorate. He is also a qualified barrister and geneticist. He is a regular columnist in several newspapers, has published over 100 books and has been described by the Cambridge News as the ‘most educationally qualified in the world’.

On November 21, 2014 I received a letter from Nobel Laureate Harry Kroto and it said:

…Please click on this URL http://vimeo.com/26991975

and you will hear what far smarter people than I have to say on this matter. I agree with them.

Harry Kroto

Nick Gathergood, David-Birkett, Harry-Kroto

I have attempted to respond to all of Dr. Kroto’s friends arguments and I have posted my responses one per week for over a year now. Here are some of my earlier posts:

Arif Ahmed, Sir David AttenboroughMark Balaguer, Horace Barlow, Michael BatePatricia ChurchlandAaron CiechanoverNoam Chomsky,Alan DershowitzHubert Dreyfus, Bart Ehrman, Stephan FeuchtwangDavid Friend,  Riccardo GiacconiIvar Giaever , Roy GlauberRebecca GoldsteinDavid J. Gross,  Brian Greene, Susan GreenfieldStephen F Gudeman,  Alan Guth, Jonathan HaidtTheodor W. Hänsch, Brian Harrison,  Hermann HauserRoald Hoffmann,  Bruce HoodHerbert Huppert,  Gareth Stedman Jones, Steve JonesShelly KaganMichio Kaku,  Stuart Kauffman,  Lawrence KraussHarry Kroto, George LakoffElizabeth Loftus,  Alan MacfarlanePeter MillicanMarvin MinskyLeonard Mlodinow,  Yujin NagasawaAlva NoeDouglas Osheroff,  Jonathan Parry,  Saul PerlmutterHerman Philipse,  Carolyn PorcoRobert M. PriceLisa RandallLord Martin Rees,  Oliver Sacks, John SearleMarcus du SautoySimon SchafferJ. L. Schellenberg,   Lee Silver Peter Singer,  Walter Sinnott-ArmstrongRonald de Sousa, Victor StengerBarry Supple,   Leonard Susskind, Raymond TallisNeil deGrasse Tyson,  .Alexander Vilenkin, Sir John WalkerFrank WilczekSteven Weinberg, and  Lewis Wolpert,

In  the second video below in the 95th clip in this series are his words but today I just wanted to pause and look at this life. 

Quote from Dr. John Raymond Smythies

I would like to describe how mescaline works. These hallucination drugs have a very specific action in two ways. Number 1 they produce fantastic visual hallucinations. These are described by the people who have them (most of them are down to earth scientists such as MacDonald Critchley) as being more beautiful than anything they have ever seen in normal art. Some of these people have the sort of experience as union with God, mystical experiences and so on.

50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God (Part 1)

Another 50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God (Part 2)

A Further 50 Renowned Academics Speaking About God (Part 3)

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