(Mar. 21, 1872-Jan. 24, 1953). An 1893 graduate of Shortridge High School, Bahr earned his medical degree from the city’s Central College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1896. Following a residency, he became employed as a nonresident doctor, or extern, at Central State Hospital in 1898.

The realization that American psychiatry trailed that of the Germans spurred Bahr to further his education. He received a Doctor of Psychological Medicine degree from the University of Berlin in 1908 and then returned to Central State Hospital as a clinical psychiatrist. In 1923, he was appointed as the hospital’s new superintendent after the death of George F. Edenharter.

Bahr took an interest in the relationship between crime and mental illness. He conducted the first clinical courses in America for lawyers in forensic psychiatry. With Bahr’s encouragement, the hospital employed Walter Bruetsch to head pathology and research for the hospital.

During Bahr’s and Bruetsch’s tenures, Central State Hospital advanced research in the treatment of syphilis/neurosyphilis, the most common cause of severe mental deterioration and disorders at the time. In 1931, the hospital won international recognition for improvements in the malarial therapy technique in syphilitic patients.

During the 1940s, Central State Hospital helped eliminate the malaria treatment of syphilis that it had helped to perfect. In 1945, the Pathological Department joined the National Research Council and eight other hospitals around the country to study the effectiveness of penicillin in treating syphilis. Penicillin’s advantages over malaria therapy became evident, leading to its treatment for the disease.

Bahr spent 54 years of his life demonstrating care, understanding, and kindness for the mentally ill. Even as superintendent, he routinely visited hospital wards to show his concern. He died 10 months after his retirement. A park in his name is located at 300 North Warman Avenue, which is a short distance from the Indiana Medical History Museum. The former Central State campus also includes a building named in his honor.

Revised March 2021

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