Intended for healthcare professionals


Tom Arie: pioneer in the development of psychiatric services for elderly people

BMJ 2020; 369 doi: (Published 29 June 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;369:m2580
  1. Rebecca Wallersteiner
  1. London, UK
  1. wallersteiner{at}
Photo credit: Laura Ingrams

Tom Arie was born Tomas Arje in Prague, to parents Otto, a lawyer, and Hedy (née Glaser), a modern language teacher. He recalled a happy early childhood until the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia. He vividly remembered attending the local school and visiting his paternal grandparents in Dobris, outside Prague, where his grandfather was the rabbi. Less happily, he also remembered the destruction of the synagogue and the discrimination his mother faced when obtaining an exit visa to leave Czechoslovakia, and his beloved German nanny having to leave the family after the Nuremberg race laws. Aided by a refugee organisation, the Arje family fled Prague on 17 August 1939, on the penultimate train out of the city.

Although he spoke little English, Arie quickly settled into an English primary school. He was evacuated during the blitz and only allowed back when his parents found accommodation with an air raid shelter. The man who took his family in, George House, later became a Labour MP for St Pancras. Otto Arie trained as a welder but found work with the BBC monitoring service. Arie attended Reading School and was always grateful for the excellent education he received there.

He read classics at Oxford before he switched to medicine. He was interested in the sociology of medicine and finally specialised in psychiatry, becoming an expert in “old age psychiatry.” He underwent further training in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital and in social medicine at the Medical Research …

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