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New research published by David Sher, DPhil student in the Department of Psychiatry, and Associate Professor Jenny Gibson, University of Cambridge, delves into the work of Russian psychiatrist GE Sukhareva.

Morning over Moscow Kremlin in the sun

This new paper, Pioneering, prodigious and perspicacious: Grunya Efimovna Sukhareva's life and contribution to conceptualising autism and schizophrenia, is published in European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 

Rabbi David Ariel Sher began collaborating on this research project when working at the University of Cambridge, with Dr Jenny Gibson, an expert on autism and Associate Professor at the University of Cambridge. They describe Sukhareva as widely believed to be the first person to provide a clinical account of autism, some two decades before psychiatrist Leo Kanner published his account in 1943, and physician Hans Asperger published his paper in 1944.

David Sher, DPhil researcher, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford, said:

 

'Sukhareva made many wide-ranging contributions to all branches of psychiatry yet very little is known of her and her work. This has led to calls in the Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences, in Autism and in European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and elsewhere for more acknowledgement and exploration of her life, her work and her contribution to psychiatric literature. Whilst shorter papers on Sukhareva have appeared, we believe this to be the first in-depth account of Sukhareva's life and contribution, not only to the genesis of autism conceptualisation and categorisation but also her other contributions to psychiatry. 

 'Sukhareva was ahead of her time in several aspects, particularly in her focus on autism among females. Over 90 years ago, she delineated sex differences in autistic symptoms that are only being elucidated in English language literature today.'

The research involved European and British archives and libraries. The paper reflects on possible explanations for the belated and incomplete recognition of Sukhareva's role, it also includes biographical detail, historical background and an outline of her legacy.

NIHR OXFORD HEALTH BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH CENTRE NEWS

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