Elvin Morton (E. M.) Jellinek (1890–1963) has been described as “a key figure in the emergence of ‘a new scientific approach to alcohol’ in post-Repeal America” by Dr. Ron Roizen, alcohol historian, and as “the Renaissance Man who brought alcohol studies out of the Dark Ages” by Dr. Thomas Babor, Editor-in-Chief of JSAD (2015-2023), recipient of the Jellinek Memorial Award in 2005.
Jellinek’s influence and legacy can be seen throughout the Center of Alcohol Studies, the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, and the Summer School of Alcohol Studies. Although Jellinek left Yale before the Center moved to Rutgers in 1962, “his ideas and legacy were very much alive and shaped the Center’s goals,” as longtime Director (1980-2011) of the Summer School of Alcohol Studies Dr. Gail Milgram observed.
In the words of former Director of the Center Dr. Robert Pandina, “Mystery man or pioneer––either way, the field will always remain indebted to his forward thinking.”
This page is a tribute to E. M. Jellinek, originally created by the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies Library in 2015 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of his birth, complementing the Special Issue of the Information Services Newsletter, dedicated to Jellinek.
A short biosketch of E. M. Jellinek should begin with the fact that no comprehensive biography has been written about him, despite several efforts. His pre-1930s life is not well documented, although new data about his time in Hungary have recently been uncovered.
Jellinek was born in New York City on August 15th, 1890. His mother, Rose Jacobson, was an opera singer with a stage name of Marcella Lindh. Shortly after his birth, his father, Marcell Jellinek, moved his family to Budapest, Hungary to take over the family transport business. Growing up in an affluent and well-educated family in Budapest during the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, Jellinek was surrounded by an exciting intellectual and artistic culture. While his formal educational credentials are yet to be verified, he showed early scholarly interest in biostatistics, philosophy, philology, anthropology, theology, languages, and linguistics.
At the beginning of his scholarly career, Jellinek wrote book reviews in Hungarian, starting in 1912. His first book, A saru eredete [The origin of shoes], was published in 1917. Before he became known as an alcohol science scholar in the United States, Jellinek was involved in various practical and scholarly endeavors related to multiple disciplines, although there are significant gaps in his biography from 1920 to 1931. Myths and legends surround his involvement in extralegal currency speculation in Hungary in 1920, his subsequent ten-year self-exile under a pseudonym, and his reappearance in the United States. Jellinek is said to have spent time in Sierra Leone and Honduras as a biostatistician during this decade.
Jellinek’s life is fairly well-documented after he relocated to the United States. From 1931 to 1938, Jellinek conducted research on schizophrenia at the Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts. In 1939, Jellinek joined the Research Council on Problems of Alcohol as Executive Director of a project reviewing literature on the effect of alcohol on the individual, funded by the Carnegie Corporation. The project was continued at Yale University under the auspices of the Laboratory of Applied Physiology. The result of this review became known as the Classified Abstract Archive of the Alcohol Literature (CAAAL).
Jellinek was elected to the editorial board of the newly established Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol on February 26, 1941, and became associate and managing editor in 1942. In 1943, he became the first director of the Summer School of Alcohol Studies, the model of alcohol education and training programs in the United States, and in 1944 established the Yale Plan Clinics, the model treatment facility for alcohol patients. After leaving New Haven, CT in 1948, Jellinek established the Yale Institute of Alcohol Studies in the Southwest at Texas Christian University, a short-lived endeavor.
By 1951, Jellinek was employed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, where he served as a consultant on the Alcoholism Subcommittee of the Expert Committee on Mental Health and later as secretary general of the International Institute for Research on Problems of Alcohol. By the late 1950s, he had relocated to Canada, working as a consultant for the Alcoholism Foundation of Alberta and the Alcoholism Research Foundation of Ontario.
Following his consulting work, Jellinek was sponsored by the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation to write his highly influential book, The Disease Concept of Alcoholism, published in 1960.
On October 22, 1963, while working on the Encyclopedia of Problems of Alcohol as a senior staff member for the Cooperative Commission on the Study of Alcoholism, Jellinek suffered a fatal heart attack in his office.
1890 Born August 15th in New York, NY
1908 Studies biostatistics and physiology at the University of Berlin*
1911 Studies philosophy, philology, anthropology, and theology at the University of Grenoble; Studies languages, linguistics, and cultural history at University of Leipzig*
1912 Publishes his first article, a book review in Hungarian
1917 Publishes his first book, The origin of shoes, in Hungarian
1920 Leaves Hungary due to his involvement in extralegal currency exchange
192? Works in plant research in Sierra Leone*
1925 Works as biometrician for United Fruit Co. in Honduras*
1928 Publishes studies on bananas under the alias A. N. Hartman
1931 Works as chief biometrician studying neuroendocrine research for Worchester State Hospital in Massachusetts
1939 Commissioned to conduct a study of scientific literature on the effect of alcohol on the individual for the Research Council on Problems of Alcohol, sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation
1941 Begins alcohol research at Yale Laboratory of Applied Physiology as Associate Professor of Applied Physiology
1941 Elected to the board of editors of the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol
1942 Appointed managing/associate editor of the Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol; publishes Alcohol addiction and chronic alcoholism; edits The effect of alcohol on the individual; Writes Alcohol explored with Dr. H.W. Haggard
1943 Begins as director of the Section of Studies on Alcohol (later named Center of Alcohol Studies) and Yale Summer School of Alcohol Studies
1944 Establishes the Yale Plan Clinics; launches the National Committee for Education on Alcoholism (now the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) with Marty Mann
1946 Publishes on placebo effect
1948 Establishes the Yale Institute of Alcohol Studies in the Southwest at Texas Christian University.
1950 Retires as director; retires as professor
1951 Serves as a consultant on alcoholism for the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland; develops a formula estimating the rate of alcoholism
1952 Publishes The phases of alcohol addiction
1955 Retires from WHO; begins as secretary general of the International Institute for Research on Problems of Alcohol
1957 Begins a worldwide survey of the progress being made in alcoholism control, under the auspices of the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation
1959 Works as a consultant for the Alcoholism Foundation of Alberta
1960 Publishes The Disease Concept of Alcoholism; acts as consultant for the Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario in Toronto and with medical students at University of Alberta in Edmonton
1961 Takes a position at the Cooperative Commission on the Study of Alcoholism at Stanford University, funded by the National Institute on Mental Health
1963 Dies October 22 in Palo Alto, CA while working on the Encyclopedia of Problems of Alcohol (nicknamed “Project X”)
*yet to be verified
Because Jellinek wrote for both scholarly and popular audiences on multiple topics, it is incredibly challenging to compile a complete bibliography of his works. The last one had been published in a volume edited by Robert Popham, entitled Alcohol and alcoholism: Papers presented at the International Symposium in memory of E.M. Jellinek, Santiago, Chile (1970).
Building partly on an unpublished 1966 list created by the CAAAL bibliographers, the Center of Alcohol Studies Library compiled the most comprehensive version of Jellinek's bibliography, and published it in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs in 2016.
A word of advice from alcohol historian Griffith Edwards while reading Jellinek:
“His own writings were often more cautious in tone than the absolute interpretations put upon them by those who read him carelessly,
or who wanted to make him the high priest of the disease definition of what counts as the problem with alcohol.”
- Alcohol: The Ambiguous Molecule by Griffith Edwards (p. 98)
Most popular publications
- Jellinek, E. (1946). Phases in the drinking history of alcoholics: analysis of a survey conducted by the Grapevine, official organ of Alcoholics Anonymous. Published for the Section on Alcohol Studies by Hillhouse Press.
- Jellinek, E. M. (1942). Alcohol addiction and chronic alcoholism. Yale University Press.
- Jellinek, E. M. (1952). Phases of alcohol addiction. Quarterly Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 13, 673-684.
- Jellinek, E. M. (1960). The disease concept of alcoholism. New Haven, CT: Hillhouse Press.
- Full Jellinek bibliography - published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
- The “Bunky Bundle” - Jellinek's most important publications from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs
- Kelly, J. (2019). E. M. Jellinek’s Disease Concept of Alcoholism. Addiction (Abingdon, England), 114(3), 555–559.
- Babor, T. F., & Ward, J. H. (2016). E. M. Jellinek at 125: The past as prologue? Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 77, 369–370.
- Ward, J. H., & Bejarano, W. (2016). A tribute to Bunky at 125: A comprehensive bibliography of E. M. Jellinek’s publications. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 77, 371–374.
- The full Jellinek bibliography is available as supplementary material that accompanies the article online.
- Ward, J. H., Bejarano, W., Babor, T. F., & Allred, N. (2016). Re-introducing Bunky at 125: E. M. Jellinek’s life and contributions to alcohol studies. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 77, 375–383.
- Bejarano, W. (2014). Mystery and speculations: An introduction to E. M. Jellinek’s redemption. Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies: Proceedings of the 36th Annual SALIS Conference, (May 1, 2014), pp.33-41.
- Ward, J. H. (2014). E.M. Jellinek: The Hungarian Connection. Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies: Proceedings of the 36th Annual SALIS Conference, (May 1, 2014), pp. 42-54.
- Bariahtaris, C. (2014). The family of E. M. Jellinek: Documenting a history. Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies: Proceedings of the 36th Annual SALIS Conference, (May 1, 2014), pp. 55-61.
- Goldstein, S. (2014). The "Banana Book" by E. M. Jellinek. Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies: Proceedings of the 36th Annual SALIS Conference,(May 1, 2014), pp. 62-66.
- Thomas, K. (2014). E. M. Jellinek: The Worcester Hospital years (1930-1939). Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies: Proceedings of the 36th Annual SALIS Conference,(May 1, 2014), pp. 67-72.
- Stewart, M. (2014). Mark Keller and E.M. Jellinek. Substance Abuse Library and Information Studies: Proceedings of the 36th Annual SALIS Conference, (May 1, 2014), pp. 73-77.
From the Digital Alcohol Studies Archives
- Jellinek’s review of the "Big Book" on a McBee punchcard written for the Classified Abstract Archive of the Alcohol Literature (CAAAL).
- Jellinek’s publications in the Lay Supplements series
- Versions of his popular Alcohol, cats, and people
- Related unpublished manuscripts
- Full text of Jellinek, E. M. (1960). The disease concept of alcoholism. New Haven, CT: Hillhouse Press.
- Browse documents related to E. M. Jellinek in RUcore, the Rutgers University Community Repository
- Browse all available documents related to notable people in RUcore, the Rutgers University Community Repository