Manfred J. Sakel
A Brief Biography

Manfred Joshua Sakel, Polish neurophysiologist and psychiatrist, was born on June 6, 1900, in Nadvorna, in the former Austrian-Hungary Empire (now Ukrania). Sakel studied Medicine at the University of Vienna from 1919 to 1925, specializing in neurology and neuropsychiatry. In 1933 he became a researcher at the University of Vienna's Neuropsychiatric Clinic, but was forced to immigrate to the United States in 1936, when the National Socialist Party came to power in Austria. In the USA, he became an attending physician and researcher at the Harlem Valley State Hospital.

Dr. Sakel was the discoverer of the insulin coma therapy for schizophrenics and other mental patients in 1927, while a young doctor in Vienna. He noted that insulin-induced coma and convulsions, due to the low level of glucose attained in the blood (hypoglicemic crisis) was effective in improving the mental state of drug addicts and psychotics, some times dramatically so. His findings indicated that up to 88 % of his patients improved with insulin shock therapy, and his method became widely applied for many years in mental institutions worldwide (in Europe it is still used, under the name "Sakel's Therapy"). In the USA and other countries it has been largely replaced by electroconvulsive therapy and other means of treatment,

Dr. Sakel died on Dec 2, 1957, in New York City, NY, USA.


To Know More


From: The History of Shock Therapy in Psychiatry

By: Renato M.E. Sabbatini, PhD

Source: Brain & Mind Magazine, December 1997/March 1998