Oral Histories

Interview of George Tarjan

UCLA professor of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences. Director of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute’s Division of Mental Retardation and Child Psychiatry.
UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital: George Tarjan
UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital
Science, Medicine, and Technology
UCLA and University of California History
UCLA Research Centers and Programs
Biographical Note:
UCLA professor of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences. Director of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute’s Division of Mental Retardation and Child Psychiatry.
Balter, Michael S.
Tarjan, George
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
18.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series was made possible by support from the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital and documents the history of that institution.
Tarjan is called in as a consultant after scandal at New York's Willowbrook State Hospital; care of the retarded in the United States compared to care in the Low Countries and Scandinavia; controversy over what to do with the Vejar Adobe during the expansion of Pacific State; accidents at Pacific State; parental visits to children at Pacific State; creation of John F. Kennedy's President's Panel on Mental Retardation; Tarjan works with the Kennedy family to promote research in mental retardation; major discoveries in mental retardation made by scientists in other fields; the National Institute of Mental Health increases its funding for mental retardation research; members of the president's panel; the panel's recommendations; the capabilities of people with Down's syndrome; the rise of the term "developmental disabilities"; presidential task forces and committees upon which Tarjan served from 1961 to 1980; fiscal constraints under James E. Carter and Ronald W. Reagan erode the quality of mental health care for the poor; Tarjan tries to convince Stafford L. Warren that UCLA School of Medicine should not supervise the state hospitals; Norman Q. Brill recruits Tarjan as a child psychiatrist; relationship of Brain Research Institute (BRI) to Neuro-psychiatric Institute (NPI); the Hill-Burton Act; Brill and Horace W. Magoun clash over the research philosophy of BRI; Tarjan and Stanley W. Wright's research at Pacific State; projects Tarjan would not allow to be done with children under his jurisdiction; working with Linus Pauling on metabolic disorders and mental retardation; Tarjan's connections with the University of Southern California; studying the life expectancy of mentally retarded individuals; determining what variables can predict events in a retarded person's life; the President's Panel on Mental Retardation promotes university-affiliated facilities for research and teaching; Tarjan chooses to have the Mental Retardation and Child Psychiatry Program (MRCP) report to Dean Sherman M. Mellinkoff; arranging facility space so that researchers and clinicians mingle; Tarjan's influence as director of the MRCP; faculty antagonism to Brill; Tarjan refuses to take sides; building the Mental Retardation Research Center (MRRC); decision to reduce the bed capacity and have an educational facility; mental retardation and child psychiatry are eventually combined into one program; salary arrangements between DMH and UCLA; Pacific State's relation to UCLA; issues of retirement benefits and security of employment arise after the university takes over NPI; recruitment and funding for the MRRC; Frederic G. Worden's opposition to Brill; Tarjan is appointed acting NPI director but refuses to accept the position permanently; search for a director for NPI; Louis Jolyon West; West's administrative style; Charles Victor Keeran; issue of how much university doctors could earn with private patients; protests over West's proposed Center for the Study of Violence; Frank Ervin; division of responsibilities and direction of NPI during period when Tarjan and Henry H. Work were joint administrators; Edward Kollar; retirement; major accomplishments of the MRRC; the future of research in mental retardation; the APA; Tarjan's two sons, Robert and James Tarjan.