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Mack, John E(dward) 1929-2004

MACK, John E(dward) 1929-2004

OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born October 4, 1929, in New York, NY; died in a car accident September 27, 2004, in London, England. Psychiatrist, educator, and author. Mack was a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who later became controversial for his psychiatric research on people who claimed to have been abducted by aliens. Earning a medical degree from Harvard University in 1955, he did his psychiatry residency in Boston at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center and then served for two years in Japan as a psychiatrist with the U.S. Air Force. After working as a teaching and research fellow at Harvard University Medical School in the late 1950s, he studied further at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, becoming certified in child psychiatry in 1969; meanwhile, he was a psychiatrist on staff at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, where he would become director of research and coordinator of Harvard University Medical School teaching in the children's unit in the late-1960s. Mack also taught at Harvard, beginning in 1964, and became a full professor of psychiatry in 1972 and head of the department from 1973 to 1977. From 1967 to 1977, he was also head of the department of psychiatry at Cambridge Hospital. Mack was interested in how negative environmental forces influenced troubled children and teens, including those contemplating suicide or suffering from extreme fear over the prospects of nuclear war; he also studied sleep behavior and dreams. He wrote on these subjects in such books as Nightmares and Human Conflict (1970) and Vivienne: The Life and Suicide of an Adolescent Girl (1981). It was his study of children afraid of nuclear holocaust that also led to his protesting the nuclear arms race, and in 1986 he was briefly arrested for protesting underground nuclear testing at a Nevada military site. Mack gained fame in 1976 with his biography of the British military officer known as Lawrence of Arabia titled A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for biography. He was enjoying a successful and respected career at Harvard, founding the Center for Psychology and Social Change in 1983 and the Program for Extraordinary Experience Research in 1993, when his research into patients who had claimed to be abducted by aliens led to a clash with his Harvard superiors. Though he did not claim to believe the abductions were real, Mack took his patients' views seriously and wrote about them in his 1994 book, Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens. This resulted in the Harvard Medical School setting up an investigative committee about Mack's research practices. Fortunately, the committee turned up nothing in the way of professional misconduct, though Mack suffered a blow to his credibility. He published a sequel, Passport to the Cosmos: Human Transformation and Alien Encounters, in 1999; in 2003, his first alien abduction book was also adapted as the documentary Touched. The next year, Mack's research center was renamed the John E. Mack Institute in his honor. He was attending a symposium on T. E. Lawrence in London when he was killed by a drunk driver.



Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2004, p. B19.

New York Times, September 30, 2004, p. C14.

Times (London, England), October 23, 2004, p. 50.

Washington Post, September 30, 2004, p. B6.

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