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Dr. Bernard J. Carroll, ‘Conscience of Psychiatry,’ Dies at 77

Category: Science,Science & Tech

“He was the conscience of psychiatry,” Dr. Frances said, “and he spawned a generation of future consciences along the way.”

Bernard James Carroll was born on Nov. 21, 1940, in Sydney, Australia, one of seven children to William Carroll, an accountant, and Alice Maude (Webber) Carroll, who worked in the household. The family moved to Melbourne when he was a teenager, and he attended the University of Melbourne, graduating in 1971 with degrees in psychiatry and medicine.

Dr. Carroll studied for a time under Dr. John Cade, who in 1948 had discovered that the salt lithium could settle the mood swings of bipolar disorder, a discovery that is still, far and away, the crowning achievement of biological psychiatry.

Dr. Carroll married Sylvia June Sharpe in 1966. He continued his career in the United States, first at the University of Pennsylvania and later at the University of Michigan.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two children, Senga and Jeremy.

In 1983, Duke University hired him to take over its medical school’s psychiatry department, and he helped put it on the map, greatly diversifying its expertise. He reigned there with a steady stream of Aussie malarkey, colleagues say, as well as an exacting scientific and ethical purism that rankled some.

After clashing with a colleague a Duke, he left in 1991 to become clinical director of a geriatric hospital outside Durham, N.C.

“That was considered a real step down, in our world,” said Barbara J. Burns, a Duke psychiatry professor whom Dr. Carroll had hired. “But he loved it there, the clinical work. He had this flat-bottomed boat, and when I’d visit him we’d go out fishing in a little lake there, on his lunch hour. It was — well, he had fun, you know?”

He worked until the end, Sylvia Carroll said, finishing a last paper and, as ever, expanding his electronic presence. His email lists were active; he had started tweeting (he was terrible at it, Dr. Frances said); and he contributed to various blogs, including Margaret Soltan’s “University Diaries,” for which he sometimes wrote limericks under the name “Adam,” like this one:

And then we have just across campus

The medical guys playing scampers.

They’ve learned to beguile,

To increase their cash pile

Once grant funds are safe in their clampers.

—Adam.


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