Milton J.E. Senn, M.D.

Director of the Child Study Center from 1948-1966

Milton J.E. Senn, M.D.

In 1948, Milton J.E. Senn, M.D. was asked by Yale University to organize and direct a new center for children, in a program of teaching and research in child development which would succeed Arnold Gesell’s Clinic of Child Development.  He organized in the Center a program of teaching and research which was firmly rooted in clinical service. Dr. Senn was Director from 1948 to 1966.

In 1948, Milton J.E. Senn, MD (1902-1990) from Cornell University, assumed the directorship. Dr. Senn was a pediatrician with psychoanalytic training. He was recruited to serve as both Chairman of Yale's Department of Pediatrics and Director of the Yale Clinic of Child Development. Dr. Senn changed the latter's name to the Yale Child Study Center. By university definition, a center is a full-fledged department, but with a more multidisciplinary faculty. The term "child study" denoted a more active purview than child development, and included pediatrics, psychiatry, and psychology. In short, a child study center was more academic and comprehensive than a child development clinic. Senn initiated numerous clinical and research collaborations with pediatrics. He also began a major longitudinal study of infants. After 10 years, he resigned from his chairmanship of the Department of Pediatrics to devote all of his time to direct the Child Study Center. At age 65, Dr. Senn retired.
Drs Milton Senn and Grover Powers in 1959.

Dr. Milton Senn and Dr. Grover Powers, circa 1959.

Senn was appointed as Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Yale in 1951 (while maintaining his CSC appointment) to succeed the respected and beloved Grover Powers on his retirement. This joint arrangement lasted until 1964 when Dr. Senn resigned the pediatric chairmanship. Senn was devoted to broadening the concept of the pediatricians role to include psychological considerations in the science of medicine.

Edith B. Jackson, M.D.

Edith B. Jackson, M.D. (b. 1895, d. 1977)

Dr. Edith Jackson was a true pioneer in the fields of behavioral pediatrics and child psychiatry. Between 1946 and 1953 she directed the rooming-in project and made Yale the center for the concept of humanizing hospital experiences surrounding the birth of a baby. Rooming-in after birth is when a baby stays in the mother's room, as opposed to spending the majority of the time in the hospital's nursery. It is because of Dr. Jackson that both mothers and fathers of newborns began to have free access to their child while still in the hospital.
Edith B. Jackson, M.D.
Dr. Edith Jackson and Rooming-in at Grace-New Haven Hospital, circa 1950.
Milton Senn and Anna Freud, 1968

Provenance: Gift of Corelyn Senn, 1996

One of the major ongoing characteristics of the Child Study Center was established during the period of Dr. Senn's leadership. He was strongly influenced by his experience with child psychoanalysis, and he encouraged junior faculty to consider psychoanalysis as one of the basic sciences for research and clinical care. Almost all the faculty members of the Child Study Center at that time received training in psychoanalysis and moved to leadership in the field of child psychoanalysis.

An important consequence of the Child Study Center's interest in psychoanalysis was its close relationship with the Hampstead-Child Therapy Clinic (now the Anna Freud Centre) in London, England. Miss Anna Freud worked with children in wartime London and established a center in Hampstead that became the world's foremost clinic specializing in child psychoanalysis. Miss Freud visited Yale a number of times beginning in the 60's and spent considerable time with colleagues in both the Child Study Center and the Yale Law School.


The relations between the Hampstead Clinic and the Child Study Center were strengthened by the recruitment to the Child Study Center of several outstanding graduates of Miss Freud’s training program in London – Miss Alice Colonna and Dr. Robert Evans, and later Dr. Steven Marans.