Edward “Ed” Ritvo: The Gentle Giant
(June 1, 1930-June 10, 2020)
Ed Ritvo was a renowned American Psychiatrists and autism researcher. He passed away peacefully while at his home in Los Angeles this past June. He was a graduate of Harvard University (BA in Social Anthropology) and Boston University School of Medicine. He completed his Psychiatry residency at Massachusetts Mental Health Center. After finishing a fellowship in Child Psychiatry he joined the UCLA faculty in 1962 from where he retired as a Professor Emeritus. Along with Edward Ornitz and Peter Tanguay he helped form a triumvirate that made UCLA the powerhouse of autism research in the 1970’s. A teacher and mentor at the UCLA Neuropsychiatry Institute, he influenced the career and beliefs of several generations of psychiatrists and researchers. Ed was a staunch supporter of the organic basis of autism. His studies provided evidence of a strong genetic influence in autism. His large scale epidemiological studies helped demolish multiple myths about autistic individuals; most famously, that autistic individuals had no interest in sex nor could they procreate. Ed had strong opinions many of them cutting against the grain of published research. Although knowing that some of his ideas were controversial, he was not afraid of expressing them in public, -a fact which brought about occasional contentious argumentation. He didn’t believe that epilepsy was a common comorbid condition of autism, and used to deny counter evidence based on his personal experience. Who could oppose him? In a room filled with thousands of clinicians he was probably the most experienced among them. I will always remember Ed as an amicable person always willing to share his time and ideas with others. He had a special relation with his wife who was very protective and supportive of him. The field of autism has lost a giant with his passing.
Casanova MF. Autism Updated: Symptoms Treatments and Controversies. Amazon Publishing, 2019.
Casanova MF. Procreation and Autism. Corticalchauvinism.com
Casanova MF. Carmen B. Pingree. Corticalchauvinism.com