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Oral History Interview

Dr. Warren Brodey

Interview with Catherine Rakow, Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Part 1 (Posted December 26, 2016)

Part 2 (Posted January 2, 2017)

Part 3 (Posted January 16, 2017)

Part 4 (Posted January 30, 2017)

Dr. Bowen's Family Study Project at the National Institutes of Mental Health ran from 1954 to 1958. Dr. Warren Brodey joined the project as a Co-investigator in July 1956 continuing through the project's termination. This interview, conducted by Catherine Rakow, occurred when Dr. Brodey visited the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family in Washington, DC in 2002 to assist in identification of materials he may have authored that are part of the L. Murray Bowen Collection now housed at the National Library of Medicine. The interview is divided into four segments which will be posted during December 2016 and January 2017.

About Dr. Brodey

Dr. Warren Brodey did his medical studies at the University of Toronto Medical School and was Assistant Director at the Worcester Child Guidance Center before joining Dr. Bowen on the research project at NIMH in July 1956. He remained an investigator on the project until it was terminated in December 1958. He was an active participant in observing and trying to define the observations, from a theoretical base, of the families in that project.

Along with other professionals who were part of the staff, he contributed to the published work about the project in "Treatment of Family Groups with a Schizophrenic Member" which is Chapter 1 and "Family Relationships in Schizophrenia" which is Chapter 4 in Family Therapy in Clinical Practice by Murray Bowen, MD.

Once the family research at the National Institute of Mental Health ended, Dr. Brodey continued a clinical practice of family therapy at the Washington School of Psychiatry as co-founder and consultant to the Pilot School for Blind Children where the focus was helping multi-handicapped blind children and their families.

He was a clinical professor at Georgetown University from 1959 to 1964. He has written two books: Family Dance, describing his experiences as a therapist with families, and Earth Child, describing biological growth processes in living systems. He has worked with cybernetics, artificial intelligence and man-machine systems in several laboratories including ones at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and NASA in USA and the Norwegian Technical University. He has educated and trained Chinese engineers and cooperated with them to create a biomedical engineering center in China.

Dr. Brodey has published numerous works in the field of psychiatry and the field of cybernetics. He has many inventions and patents oriented to tactile communication. He has worked internationally as an educator in the medical field has been an initiator of companies in America and Norway, has been a leader at the Environmental Ecology Laboratory in Boston, and has published in a wide variety of scientific journals.

In his own words:

"A central theme over the years of my professional life has been communication/relationship seen together. My focus has been the fine texture of woven threads whose tangled intertwining creates the field of intimacy. As Goethe, the author and scientist recommends I have looked deeply from many viewpoints at how relational fields of more or less caring, trust, learning, social awareness arise between people. I have studied the relational fields of children, adults, families, the blind, sick and handicapped, the poor and the wealthy, social and political groups. I have observed these in different cultures. From the time I left psychiatry and education I have worked at expressing and testing my insights using the human computer interface as my tool. I have become relatively expert in designing the functional requirements for intelligent interfaces. It has been specially the design of touch; tactile, haptic interfaces that have gripped my attention for these are two ways: You cannot touch without being touched at the same time. As Bateson used the term coevolutionary to describe the interdependence of animals evolution, I use the term coactive to describe the being touched together that typifies fields of love, trust, learning, caring, in families, groups, and in our relationships to environments including advanced computer environments. I believe this period will be devoted to using the human computer metaphor to allow people to teach themselves about the coactive aspects of intimacy."

"I have been an inventor for many years, and have invented in the area of communication and communication devices. This work developed out of my deep and unique experience of how families communicate thanks to the NIH project."

Dr. Brodey's papers will soon be available in the archives at the University of Vienna in Austria. There are notes and other papers from his NIMH family work contained within those.

Dr. Brodey has lived in Oslo, Norway since 1972.

About this Interview

This interview was recorded when Dr. Brodey visited the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family in Washington, DC in 2002 to assist in identifying materials he may have authored that are part of the L. Murray Bowen Collection now housed at the National Library of Medicine. Within the interview with Catherine Rakow, Dr. Brodey, stimulated by looking at the original materials from that project, gave insight in to the day to day operations and his participation in it as well as his assessment/personal observations on the ward. The interview is divided into four audio files, each to be posted over the next weeks.

Dr. Brodey was a Co-Investigator on Dr. Murray Bowen's 1954 to 1959 NIMH research project. Those papers, the L. Murray Bowen Collection, are now housed at the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine, in Bethesda, MD.

This discussion took place while Mrs. Rakow and Dr. Brodey were reviewing original materials from that project some of which contained the family names of those families on the project. Those names have been redacted and you will hear a pause in those places on the tape.

Dr. Brodey's recollections give us an inside look at the practices within that project - a project that laid the groundwork for the formation of Bowen Family Systems Theory.


Part 1 (474 kb)  |
Part 2 (469 kb)  |
Part 3 (73 kb)  |
Part 4(328 kb)