In Memory of Edward Ross Ritvo, M.D., Renown Autism Researcher

Dr. Edward Ritvo

Edward “Ed” Ritvo, M.D., Professor Emeritus in Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA, passed away peacefully in his Los Angeles home on June 10, 2020 at the age of 90. He was an internationally known child psychiatrist who, with colleagues, formed the vanguard of UCLA researchers establishing the biomedical basis of autism in the 1960’s despite the prevailing psychological theories of the day. Adventuresome in life and work, he was a collegiate downhill skier, mountaineer, and rower who would later break new ground in identifying the role of genetics, sleep and neurophysiological differences, perinatal risk factors, and biomarkers relating to autism and autism risk.

Dr. Ritvo was born in Newton, Massachusetts and received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College and his M.D. from Boston University School of Medicine. He completed a residency in psychiatry at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston, and child psychiatry fellowship training at the James Jackson Putnam Children’s Center in Boston and at the Reiss-Davis Clinic in Los Angeles, before joining the faculty at UCLA in 1962. From 1958 to 1961, he was a captain in the United States Army, serving as an army psychiatrist in Texas. Dr. Ritvo spent his entire academic career as a professor, unit director, and researcher at UCLA's Neuropsychiatric Institute, helping to lead its transformation from state hospital to become one of the leading psychiatry programs in the world. He published over 100 papers and chapters devoted to autism and child psychiatry, as well as a memoir of his army experience and children’s books, despite his claim of having dyslexia. His work contributed significantly to contemporary approaches to diagnosis and assessment, and spawned potential pathways for intervention. Dr. Ritvo was the recipient of several awards including the Blanche Ittleson Award from the American Psychiatric Association, the George Tarjan Award from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for Autism Research.

As a colleague, Dr. Ritvo was fun-loving, optimistic, eternally irreverent, and always full of new ideas and anecdotes, truly “larger than life”. The UCLA Department of Psychiatry has endowed a special annual Ritvo Lectureship to honor his legacy, achievements, and contributions to UCLA.

He is survived by his sister, Marion Freemont-Smith, and his children, Eva Ritvo, Anne Bielamowicz, Matthew Ritvo, Victoria Ritvo-Black, Skylre Ritvo, and his twelve grandchildren. He was predeceased by his children Deborah Louria and Max Ritvo. The family requests donations in his honor to the Cedars Sinai Heart Transplant Program, Bold Beauty Project, or Sarcoma Research organizations. A memorial service at UCLA is planned for a future date to be announced.