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I first knew George Dession as an outstanding student in the Yale Law School and as Managing Editor of the Yale Law Journal. When he completed his work in course in February 1930, an unexpected vacancy had occurred in the field of criminal law and as dean I was able to persuade him to a course of unusual preparation for a career in that field, which neatly dovetailed with the School's plans for integration of effort in the social disciplines. The then State's Attorney of Middlesex County, Ernest A. Inglis--now the Chief Justice of Connecticut--agreed to give the course that spring with George's help while the latter became his assistant in the work of the prosecutor's office. In the summer of 1930 George took over the important first course in Criminal Law, which he thereafter conducted for twenty-five years until his untimely death in June 1955. In the fall of 1930 by special arrangement with the Yale School of Medicine he took advanced work in anatomy, psychiatry, and psychology; and there began that steadily fruitful collaboration with the M1edical School, and notably the department of psychiatry, which continued throughout his life. Even in his first year of teaching he teamed with Dr. Eugen Kalm and Professor Thurman Arnold in a seminar in the legal, psychological, and psychiatric aspects of crime. A year abroad as Social Science Fellow in 1932-1933 studying criminal law administration, particularly in France and Belgium (supplemented some years later by further study along similar lines as a Guggenheim Fellow), gave a breadth of experience and interest that I think still signalizes a high watermark in the integration which we at Yale had visualized and hoped for. While others have advocated such broad training, George Dession proceeded to exemplify it in his own person. The results have been apparent in his writings and in his original teaching tool, his Criminal Law, Administration and Public Order, published in 1948. It is not possible to review here his achievement in any substantial detail, but it is interesting to note that hand in hand with his interest in the mental condition of offenders and very possibly as a consequence was his stress--unusual for a law teacher--on the administration of the criminal law, as opposed to the abstract definition of various crimes.
Date of Authorship for this Version
George H. Dession, 64 Yale Law Journal 1103 (1955)