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Lawrence Kolb Papers 1912-1972
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Biography

Biographical Note

Dr. Lawrence Kolb was a pioneer in the medical approach to narcotics addiction treatment and in public health research and treatment of mental illness. He was born in Galesville, Md., Feb. 20, 1881, and graduated from the University of Maryland medical school in 1908. The next year he was commissioned an Assistant Surgeon in the Public Health Service. From 1913 to 1919, he was stationed at the Ellis Island, N.Y. Immigration Station specializing in the mental disease and illness of incoming aliens. During this same period, he also developed a program for the study and treatment of post-World War I patients suffering from war-caused neuroses. In 1923, Dr. Kolb came to Washington, D.C. and spent five years studying drug addiction and its relationship to crime. He was one of the first to advocate treating drug addicts as patients, not criminals. By 1934, Dr. Kolb was an international expert in the study of psychiatry and narcotics, and was appointed head of the PHS Narcotics Hospital in Lexington, KY. to lead the U.S. government's first experimental unit for treating drug addicts. His final duty station was as Chief of the PHS Mental Hygiene Division from 1938-1944. He was promoted to Assistant Surgeon General in 1942. His work there, along with that of Dr. Thomas Parran, led to the creation of the National Institute for Mental Health in 1946.