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Donald B. Rinsley Papers

Microfilm MF 6303




Student, psychiatrist, professor; of New York City; Cambridge, Mass.; Topeka, Kan. Born Donald Hindle Zirinsley in 1928, full name: Donald Brenden Rinsley, died 1979. Papers (0.6 ft.) presenting a biographical portrait of Donald Rinsley and his work in child psychiatry and the study of borderline & narcissistic personalities. Included are personal items & newspaper clippings about him; artwork; a school souvenir book; undergraduate theses; articles & monographs on psychiatry; articles by or featuring him, letters to the editor he wrote, and related correspondence; certificates; and greeting cards.


1928 – 1989


0.6 ft. (12 folders)


Rinsley, Donald B.


Donald B. Rinsley papers
Portion Title: Papers


Microfilm: roll MF 6303
Forms: Donald B. Rinsley MS. collection, no. 5031
Research Room microfilm cabinets
Consult the “Detailed Description of the Collection,” section 8 below, for folder numbers of individual series.


This finding aid describes materials on microfilm held by the Kansas State Historical Society. Microfilm may be used in the Research Room in the society’s Center for Historical Research during regular research hours. Microfilm may also be borrowed through interlibrary loan for your use at a participating public, academic, or research library. Information on interlibrary loan is available from the Kansas State Historical Society and on its web site, http://www.kshs.org. Support for telephone, mail and on-line research and reference is limited. In a continuing effort to improve the completeness and accuracy of finding aids, revisions are made as more or new information becomes available. Consequently, this finding aid may differ slightly from what appears on the microfilm or on the Kansas State Historical Society’s web site.


Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka)


Donald Brendan Rinsley was born 31 January 1928 in New York City to Louis (Kallman) and Annamay C. Hindle Zirinsley; his birth announcement states his name as Donald Hindle Zirinsley. He attended Public Schools 140 (1937 – 1939) and 136 (1941), Queens, and Andrew Jackson High School in the St. Albans area of New York City. Sometime around 1943, the family changed its surname from Zirinsley to Rinsley. He graduated from high school in 1945 and was a member of Arista, an honor society. Following high school, he went to college at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, graduating in 1949 with a bachelor of arts degree with honors in biochemical sciences. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, the premier national undergraduate honor society.

Following graduation, he studied postgraduate concert piano at the Julliard School of Music in New York City in 1949 and 1950. Later he went to medical school and earned a doctor of medicine degree from Washington University, St. Louis, in 1954. He was an assistant in pediatrics at the Washington University School of Medicine in 1954 and 1955 and a pediatrics intern at St. Louis Children’s Hospital the same years. He changed his specialty to psychiatry and studied at the Menninger School of Psychiatry in Topeka, Kansas. He was a fellow in psychiatry and a resident psychiatrist at the Menninger Foundation in 1955 and 1956 and again in 1958 through 1960. He married Charlotte Anne Trowbridge. They had one daughter, Eve Anne.

Following graduation from Menninger, Dr. Rinsley became a staff psychiatrist and chief of forensic psychiatry at the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri, from 1956 through 1958. He was also a senior assistant surgeon to the United States Public Health Service surgeon from 1956 through 1980.

He was assistant chief of the Adolescent Unit of the Children’s Division of Topeka State Hospital in Kansas during the years 1960 – 1968. While he was at Topeka State, he developed innovative treatment programs for severely disturbed adolescents.

He also became a faculty member in general psychiatry at the Karl Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mental Health Sciences beginning in 1960. In 1968, he joined the child psychiatry faculty there; he served on the faculty’s Executive Committee in 1969 through 1975 and again in 1977 through 1979.

He was appointed chief of the Adolescent Unit at Topeka State Hospital in 1968. The new treatment programs for youth he created earned him the Edward A. Strecker Memorial Award given by the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital in the same year.

In 1969 through 1971 he was a zone consultant to chapters at large of Sigma Xi, the scientific research honor society. He was named director of the Children’s Section at Topeka State Hospital in 1970.

He was at the same time associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, serving in that capacity from 1970 through 1977. He was a member of the executive and senior treatment faculty of the Child Psychiatry Training Program at Menninger.

He was a member of the Committee on Membership at Large of Sigma Xi from 1972 until 1975. The Menninger Foundation gave him an honorary diploma in child psychiatry in 1975.

He and a number of other medical staff left Topeka State Hospital in 1975 in a dispute over what they felt was unnecessary bureaucratic interference in the Hospital’s operation. At that time, he became associate chief of psychiatry education at the Topeka Veterans Administration Hospital, later renamed the Colmery-O’Neil VA Medical Center. He was concurrently a Spencer Foundation fellow in advanced studies at the Menninger Foundation from 1976 through 1979 and a consulting psychiatrist at the C. F. Menninger Memorial Hospital from 1976 until his death. He was promoted to clinical professor at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in 1977 and continued his teaching there for the rest of his life. In 1979, he was named the Spencer Foundation fellow in interdisciplinary studies at Menninger.

Beginning in 1981, Dr. Rinsley was a consulting psychiatrist for the Children’s Division of the Menninger Foundation. His students gave him the William C. Menninger Teacher of the Year Award in 1982. In 1983 and 1984, he was the Skilman Professor in Child Psychiatry, and in 1987 through 1989, he served as a affiliated professor in psychiatry at Oral Roberts University School of Medicine in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was Arthur B. Richter Visiting Professor of Child Psychiatry at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis in 1988.

Rinsley was a diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology; a fellow of the American Board of Medical Psychotherapists, American Psychiatric Association, American College of Psychoanalysts, Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, American Association for the Advancement of Science, New York Academy of Sciences, American Society of Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Association of Children’s Residential Centers; and in addition a member of the Association for Research in Nervous and Mental Disease, Society for Academic Psychiatry, American Academy of Psychoanalysis, American Association of Psychiatric Services for Children, Sigmund Freud Society, Sigma Xi, and the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Kansas City. He was a corresponding member of the Canadian Psychiatric Association and an honorary member of the Argentine Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology.

Dr. Rinsley was known for his expertise in the theory and practice of psychiatry. He wrote or co-authored six books, listed in the Appendix — section 9, below — and over 100 articles. He also achieved prominence for his development of object relations theory, and he was considered the world’s foremost authority on Ronald Fairbairn, a member of the British psychoanalytic movement following World War II.

Following a month-long illness, surgery, and post-surgical complications, Donald Rinsley died at a Houston, Texas, hospital on 23 December 1989 at the age of 61. He was buried at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Topeka.

Scope and Content

These papers present a biographical portrait of Donald Rinsley and his work. The emphasis in this collection is on Dr. Rinsley as a person rather than his illustrious career as a psychiatrist. Personal items about him, such as his birth announcement and newspaper clippings about him (series 1), artwork he drew (series 2), and a school souvenir book (series 3), document his boyhood and adolescence in New York City. His undergraduate education at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts) is represented by theses he wrote in partial fulfillment of graduation requirements (series 4).

The collection includes only a few examples of his writings on psychiatry (series 5 and 7) and no original items documenting the pioneering work he did in the field of child psychiatry while at the Topeka State Hospital (Kansas). However, a number of biographical articles and sketches describe his professional work.

More generic descriptions of Dr. Rinsley’s professional milieu and his place within it can be found in the series Articles, Letters to the Editor, and Related Correspondence, 1960 – 1982 (no. 6). Here are found short articles he wrote, letters he sent to newspapers and other publications, news stories featuring or quoting Dr. Rinsley, and other correspondence. Though much of the focus of these items is psychiatry, its practice in Kansas, and Dr. Rinsley’s activities, the items in this series also illustrate other topics of interest to him, such as music.

Certificates of appointment and commendation presented to Dr. Rinsley comprise series 8. These include his United States Public Health Service appointments.

Two personal notes, one on the back of a postcard, the other in a greeting card, conclude the collection. These were written by Colmcille and Marie, last name unknown, who were obviously close friends.

Although only a few of the dozens of articles he wrote are represented in this collection, researchers can consult subject bibliographies and bibliographic catalogs to find libraries holding his books and journal articles.

Researchers wanting a more complete portrait of Dr. Rinsley and his work may wish to consult the Menninger Archives and the archival records of Topeka State Hospital in the manuscripts and State archives holdings, respectively, of the Kansas State Historical Society. Within the Menninger Archives, in the Menninger Foundation Corporate Archives sub-collection (no. II), Organizational Affiliates series (I), Records of the Kansas Psychiatric Society file (no. 3) is a folder titled Donald Rinsley’s Litigation, 1978 (box 118-03-01-05). Other records of the two organizations may provide information about activities at the two institutions that relate to treatments and services offered to patients as well as professional education for staff members. Publications of both hospitals in the society’s Kansas library may also be of value.

This collection was organized into three series — Youth, Writings, and News Clippings and Miscellaneous Papers — while at the Des Moines University Library, but the order had been disrupted by the time the Kansas State Historical Society received the collection. While the original three-part arrangement has been essentially maintained, most of the further grouping of papers into additional topical series as reflected on the microfilm was done by Kansas State Historical Society staff. As the collection was being reorganized, attempts were made to keep items together that were received together. Hence, some similar items, such as professional articles, may be found in more than one place.

Some loaned documents were not microfilmed because they did not directly relate to Dr. Rinsley’s personal or professional life, had potential copyright limitations, identified possible patients, or were considered of marginal informational value. These non-filmed items include undergraduate class notes; a poster in Chinese illustrating how bacteria from humans contaminates water and soil and can re-infect humans; complete issues of The Pioneer, the Andrew Jackson High School (St. Albans, New York) yearbook (pages from the June 1945 Pioneer showing him were filmed); “An Introduction to the Energetic-Synergetic Geometry of R. Buckminster Fuller” prepared by a student group in the School of Design, North Carolina State College (now University), Raleigh, May 1955; individuals’ autobiographical statements; papers written by others; and class and laboratory handouts from Donald Rinsley’s medical school bacteriology class.

Contents List

Organization of the Collection

Archival records are typically organized by series, a group of records that has a common element or function and a distinct organizational structure of its own, for example Correspondence Files, arranged chronologically, or Registers of Military Enlistments, arranged by regiment. Within series, records may be arranged into folders denoting subordinate file units.

Microfilm is available on a self - service basis in the Research Room or may be borrowed from the Kansas State Historical Society through interlibrary loan. Information on interlibrary loan policies is available from the Society or on its website at http://www.kshs.org.

Series Descriptions

Series 1: Biographical Material, 1928 – 1989. 0.1 ft. (2 folders)
Biographical sketches, news stories, clippings, articles, obituaries, photographs, and other information on Donald B. Rinsley and his family. The biographical materials outline his educational and professional pursuits and achievements. Some clippings and photos may pertain to acquaintances rather than family members.
Content: folder 1. Donald B. Rinsley — folder 2. Other members of the Rinsley family.
Organized so that material about Donald Rinsley precedes information about other family members.

Series 2: Artwork, 1937 – 1949. 41 items (1 folder)
Sketches, handmade cards, and abstract art drawn by Donald Rinsley while in grade and high school. Some of the art, undoubtedly drawn during World War II, is of military aircraft. Some drawings may have been done for a class. Included is one drawing he made while in college or graduate school.
Arranged generally chronologically.

Series 3: School History, June 23, 1941. 1 v. (unpaged)
School souvenir book with information about Public School 136, Queens, and inscriptions written by friends and teachers.

Series 4: Undergraduate Theses, August 1948 – April 1949. 0.1 ft. (2 v. in 2 folders)
Theses written in partial fulfillment of bachelor of arts degree requirements at Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.) The earlier thesis, “Life, a Philosophico-Scientific Analysis,” Aug. 17, 1948, appears to be a draft, as notes and details of bibliographic citations have been annotated in the margins.
Contents: folder 1. Life, a philosophico-scientific analysis, Aug. 17, 1948 — folder 2. The concept of life : an inquiry into the foundations of biological theory, Apr. 4, 1949.
Arranged chronologically.

Series 5: Manuscripts on Psychiatry, 1982 and undated. 2 folders.
Unpublished analyses, seminar outlines, essays, poetry, and papers by Donald Rinsley pertaining to various aspects of psychiatry. Folder 1 includes “Spot Analysis,” a case study of an unidentified person, and an outline of a seminar on adolescence. At least one of the items in this folder is believed to have been written by a patient or several patients, but no individuals are identified. Folder 2 contains contact information about a conference at the University of California, Los Angeles, in October 1982 and the text of a paper, “Socio-Cultural Determinants of the Borderline Concept,” presumably delivered by Donald Rinsley at that conference.
Contents: folder 1. Spot analysis ; Seminar on adolescence (outline) ; essays and poetry ; other papers, undated — folder 2. UCLA conf., Oct. ’82.
Organized so the undated items precede the 1982 conference paper.

Series 6: ArticlesLetters to the Editor, and Related Correspondence, 1960 – 1982. 0.1 ft. (26 items)
Articles published in professional journals, letters to newspapers, newspaper stories quoting Donald Rinsley, and correspondence about these publications. Most of these present Donald Rinsley’s views on psychiatric and newsworthy topics. Included is a series of articles in the Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.), October – November 1975, on mental hospitals in Kansas and Missouri and a signed letter from Richard Nixon, San Clemente, Calif., 1977 Aug. 12, thanking Dr. Rinsley for an article.
Arranged chronologically with undated items at the end.

Series 7: Dynamics, Development and Treatment of Borderline and Narcissistic Personalities: A Monograph, May 14, 1989. ii, 96 leaves.
A manuscript, apparently not published with this title, that may have ultimately served as a draft of Donald Rinsley’s book Developmental Pathogenesis and Treatment of Borderline and Narcissistic Personality (Northvale, N.J.: J. Aronson, 1989).

Series 8: Certificates and Commendations, 1956 – 1988. 11 items.
Appointment, membership, and honorary certificates and other awards presented to Donald Rinsley. Included are appointments as a surgeon in the U.S. Public Health Service, 1956 – 1965.
Arranged chronologically with undated items at the end.

Series 9: Greeting Cards, undated. 2 items.
A Christmas card and a postcard from Colmcille and Marie [surname unknown] with messages.

Related Records and Collections

Appendix: Books by Donald B. Rinsley

Listed in chronological order

Theory and Practice of Intensive Residential Treatment of Adolescents; the Fifth Annual Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital Award Lecture in Memory of Edward A. Strecker, M.D. [Nutley, N.J.: Roche Laboratories, 1968].

Treatment of the Severely Disturbed Adolescent. New York: J. Aronson, 1980. Reprinted 1983; Northvale, N.J.: reprinted 1994.

Borderline and Other Self Disorders: A Developmental and Object-Relations Perspective. New York: J. Aronson, 1982. Northvale, N.J.: reprinted 1997.

Shishunki Byoto Riron to Rinsho, [by] Donald B. Rinsley and Shohei Okabe. Tokyo: Yuhikaku, 1986.

Developmental Pathogenesis and Treatment of Borderline and Narcissistic Personalities. Northvale, N.J.: J. Aronson, 1989.

Fairbairn and the Origins of Object Relations, [by] James S. Grotstein and Donald B. Rinsley. London, New York: Free Association Books, Guilford Press, 1994. Reprinted: New York: Other Press, 1994, 2000.

Related Materials

Lawrence Jacob Friedman collection MS. collection 790
Karl Menninger collection MS. collection 90
Menninger Archives MS. collection 786
Topeka history collection, Hospitals series MS. collection 646, series N
Washburn University history collection MS. collection 654

Separated Material

Donald Rinsley’s book collection was donated to Des Moines University (Ia.) and is housed in the University’s Behavioral Medicine Department, Tower Clinic.
Selected photographs were copied for inclusion in the Kansas State Historical Society’s photograph collection.

Other Finding Aid

Copies of this finding aid are available in the Research Room of the Center for Historical Research; on its web site, and on each microfilm roll. http://www.kshs.org


“Donald B. Rinsley Papers, 1928 – 1989.” Collection register dated 2004. Des Moines University Library.
“Rinsley, Donald B.” In Biographical Directory of Fellows & Members of the American Psychiatric Association as of October 1977, [7th ed.,] compiled for the APA by the Jacques Cattell Press, 1101. New York, N.Y.: R.R. Bowker Co., 1977. Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS) call number GL BB B679 1977 p.1101.
“Rinsley, Donald B.” In Who Was Who in America: With World Notables, 10:301. New Providence, N.J.: Marquis Who’s Who, ©1993. KSHS call number Ref. GL BB Am3w v.10 p.301.
“Donald B. Rinsley” (obituary). The Topeka (Kans.) Capital-Journal, 27 Dec. 1989. KSHS microfilm roll T2513.

Index Terms

Access Points

The terms listed below may include names, places, subjects, occupations, titles, and other words describing this collection. These terms are used in the ATLAS catalog used by the Kansas State Historical Society and affiliated libraries in Topeka, http://lib.wuacc.edu/search, as well as libraries and archives subscribing to OCLC, an international library/archives database. Searches on these words should produce a description of this collection as well as other books and collections that may be of interest. Topical terms are Library of Congress subject headings unless indicated otherwise.

Personal Names

Rinsley, Donald B. – Archives.
Rinsley, Donald B. – Correspondence.

Corporate Names

Harvard University – Dissertations.
Menninger Clinic.
P.S. 136 (Queens, New York, N.Y.) – Students – Yearbooks.
Topeka State Hospital

Geographic Names

Cambridge (Mass.)
New York (N.Y.)
Topeka (Kan.)


Borderline personality disorder.
Child psychiatry – Kansas.
Dissertations, Academic – Massachusetts – Cambridge.
Medical colleges – Kansas – Topeka – Faculty.
Psychiatry – Kansas.


Articles. (Art and Architecture Thesaurus [AAT])
Certificates. (AAT)
Children’s drawings – New York (State) – New York.
Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)
Greeting cards.
Letters to the editor – Kansas – Topeka.
Monographs. (AAT)
School yearbooks – New York (State) – New York.


College students – Massachusetts – Cambridge.
Medical students – Kansas – Topeka.
Psychiatrists – Kansas – Topeka.
Students – New York (State) – New York.

Additional Information for Researchers

Restrictions on Access


Restrictions on Use

Notice: This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). The user is cautioned that the publication of the contents of this microfilm may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights. These rights derive from the principle of common law, affirmed in the copyright law of 1976 as amended, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right; the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself. It is the responsibility of a user or his or her publisher to secure the permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing.
Copyright to the documents created by Donald B. Rinsley was not transferred to the Kansas State Historical Society when this collection was microfilmed. Information about known copyright holders will be furnished by Historical Society staff upon request. Copyright to items in the collection created by others may be owned by the creators’ heirs or assigns.

Custodial History

Deposited at the Des Moines University Library (Ia.), ca. 1991. Offered to the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS) for possible inclusion in the Menninger Archives, 2004, subject to the family's wishes. At the family's request, the KSHS microfilmed desired items and returned the collection to his daughter, Eve Rinsley, in 2004.

Preferred Citation

Note: [document and/or series description, date], Donald B. Rinsley papers, 1928 – 1989, Kansas State Historical Society microfilm MF 6303.
Bibliography: Rinsley, Donald B. Donald B. Rinsley papers, 1928 – 1989. Kansas State Historical Society microfilm MF 6303.

Acquisition Information

Loan: Eve Rinsley, 2004; accession no. 2005–127.01.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Robert L. Knecht, 2004, with assistance from Audrey McKanna, 2004 Lela Barnes Intern.


No additions to this collection are expected at this time.


Microfilm. Topeka, Kan. : Kansas State Historical Society, 2005. Microfilm roll no. MF 6303; lab. no. 54276.
Originals microfilmed and returned to the family.