In Memory of Philip Seeman (1934-2021) by Gary Remington
It is with much sadness that we report the death of Dr. Philip Seeman on January 9, 2021.
Born in Winnipeg and raised in Montreal, he attended McGill University where he obtained his BSc (1955), MSc in Physiology (1956) and MD (1960). Thereafter, he completed his internship at Wayne State University in Detroit, followed by a PhD in Life Sciences at Rockefeller University in New York City (1966) and a MRC fellowship at Cambridge. He joined the University of Toronto (U of T) in the Department of Pharmacology (1967), with a cross-appointment to the Department of Psychiatry and the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry (now the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health – CAMH). His lab was active, vibrant and supportive, bringing together students from around the world who would leave well trained and inspired.
Dr. Seeman became a household name in the fields of neuroscience, schizophrenia and psychopharmacology. His contributions to the role of dopamine and different receptors in schizophrenia proved central to our understanding of the illness, psychosis and the drugs that would be developed. Throughout his brilliant and productive career, he ceaselessly expanded our knowledge and did so in ways that were innovative, challenging and instructive. The long list of awards and tributes he received over the years, in combination with more than 800 articles published, are testimony to his brilliance, work ethic and commitment to science and discovery.
There are so many other aspects regarding Dr. Seeman that warrant comment. I shall share just two: he and his wife, Dr. Mary Seeman, a psychiatrist and researcher, each chose to focus on schizophrenia. She herself is very accomplished and it is notable that both received Order of Canada awards, one of the country’s most esteemed honours. Together, the sum of their contributions is greater than the parts. They established U of T as a centre for schizophrenia research, training and treatment, which over the years has contributed substantially to advances that span a number of areas. As importantly, this work has translated to a greater acceptance of schizophrenia through gains in knowledge and improved care.
His capacity to inspire trainees was remarkable, captured by the lifelong relationships that continued with so many following their graduation. As a mentor, he was also a superb role model – available, knowledgeable, supportive, inquisitive and tenacious. It was impossible not to be inspired after a discussion with “Phil.”
Our condolences to his family. He will be missed by many, but his legacy will live on.
May 20, 2021