Born in 1903 and died on March 15, 1998, Dr. Benjamin Spock was most famous, originally, for his publishing, in 1946 of Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. The power this book had, and how drastically it changed the foundations of parenting are difficult to overestimate. For example, prior to Spock's book, the most famous work on childcare was a book by John B. Watson's "Psychological Care of Infant and Child".

Watson's recommendations included such gems as ""Never hug or kiss your children, never let them sit in your lap," Watson instructed, lest they drown in "Mother Love." As well, he recommended: "If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning." Watson felt very strongly against thumb-sucking - to the point of recommending lashing their tiny wrists to the bedposts.

Given that this was treated as Gospel at most hospitals at the time, Spock's work was revolutionary. His most famous piece of advice was "Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do."

Thanks to Ereneta for pointing an amusing gag - but one that also illustrates the importance/prominence of Spock's book. In the movie Raising Arizona, there's a running gag that whenever the baby is kidnapped you always have to take the instruction manual. The manual? You guessed it - Spock's book.

Dr. Spock himself led a very interesting life - he was part of the 1924 US Olympic Rowing Team in Paris. He attended Yale University, and was brought up in New England.

Following publishing the book, he toured extensively throughout the 1940s and 1950s, and became increasingly well known. He continued to publish more editions of the book, which has sold somewhere in the range >50 million copies, and is the second highest selling book in the United States, overall, behind The Bible.

The 1960s brought a much higher degree of politicalization to Spock's life. He was very active in the John F. Kennedy's campaign in 1960, and in Lyndon Johnson's 1964 campaign. Starting in 1962, he became an active Vietnam War protestor, and also became a pacifist.

Later editions of the book also corrected much of the gender bias found in the original editions of the book, as well as addressed some of the criticisms of permissiveness that people leveled against Spock's teachings. In the 1980s, sections were also added to address AIDS as well as sexual awareness.

One of the saddest parts of Dr. Spock's life was his own family life. Raised by a mother who physically abused some of his siblings, Spock was allegedly an emotionally aloof father to his sons, and his devotion to work and politics is said to have driven his first wife to alcoholism. As Spock was reported to have said shortly before his death "Sometimes it is easier to give counsel then to listen to your own".

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