Benjamin McLane Spock (May 2, 1903 — March 15, 1998) was an American pediatrician whose book Baby and Child Care, published in 1946, is one of the biggest best-sellers of all time. About the book:
Throughout its first 52-years, Baby and Child Care was the second-best-selling book, next to the Bible. Its message to mothers is that “you know more than you think you do.”
Spock was the first pediatrician to study psychoanalysis to try to understand children’s needs and family dynamics. His ideas about childcare influenced several generations of parents to be more flexible and affectionate with their children, and to treat them as individuals. In addition to his pediatric work, Spock was an activist in the New Left and anti Vietnam War movements during the 1960s and early 1970s. At the time his books were criticized by Vietnam War supporters for allegedly propagating permissiveness and an expectation of instant gratifications that led young people to join these movements, a charge Spock denied. Spock also won an Olympic gold medal in rowing in 1924 while attending Yale University.
In 1962, Spock joined The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, otherwise known as SANE. Spock was politically outspoken and active in the movement to end the Vietnam War. In 1968, he and four others (including William Sloane Coffin, Marcus Raskin, Mitchell Goodman, and Michael Ferber) were singled out for prosecution by then Attorney General Ramsey Clark on charges of conspiracy to counsel, aid, and abet resistance to the draft. Spock and three of his alleged co-conspirators were convicted, although the five had never been in the same room together. His two-year prison sentence was never served; the case was appealed and in 1969 a federal court set aside his conviction.
In 1967, Spock was to be nominated as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vice-presidential running mate at the National Conference for New Politics over Labor Day weekend in Chicago. According to William F. Pepper’s Orders to Kill, however, the conference was broken up by agents provocateurs working for the government.
In 1968, Spock signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.
Spock was the People’s Party candidate in the 1972 United States presidential election with a platform that called for free medical care, the repeal of “victimless crime” laws, including the legalization of abortion, homosexuality, and marijuana, a guaranteed minimum income for families and the immediate withdrawal of all American troops from foreign countries. In the 1970s and 1980s, Spock demonstrated and gave lectures against nuclear weapons and cuts in social welfare programs.
In 1972, Spock, Julius Hobson (his Vice Presidential candidate), Linda Jenness (Socialist Workers Party Presidential candidate), and Socialist Workers Party Vice Presidential candidate Andrew Pulley wrote to Major General Bert A. David, commanding officer of Fort Dix, asking for permission to distribute campaign literature and to hold an election-related campaign meeting. On the basis of Fort Dix regulations 210-26 and 210-27, General David refused the request. Spock, Hobson, Jenness, Pulley, and others then filed a case that ultimately made its way to the United States Supreme Court (424 U.S. 828—Greer, Commander, Fort Dix Military Reservation, et al., v. Spock et al.), which ruled against the plaintiffs.