Phyllis Greenacre was born in Chicago, Illinois and earned a B.S. at the University of Chicago. She graduated from Chicago Rush Medical College in 1916, and then worked on experimental psychology for a few years with prominent psychiatrist Adolf Meyer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In about 1920, she married Curt Richter, a colleague, with whom she had two children; the couple divorced in 1930. Dr. Greenacre began psychoanalytic training in 1937, and afterwards rose to prominence within the psychoanalytic establishment. She went to New York City to direct the outpatient unit of the Payne-Whitney Psychiatric Clinic at New York Hospital, and was appointed clinical professor of psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College. She remained there until the late 1940s, when she went into private practice in Manhattan. In 1942, she joined the faculty of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute. She wrote several books on the development of infants and small children, including Trauma, Growth and Personality (1952); Swift and Carroll: A Psychoanalytic Study of Two Lives (1955); The Quest for the Father: A Study of the Darwin-Butler Controversy as a Contribution to the Understanding of the Creative Individual (1963); and Emotional Growth: Psychoanalytic Studies of the Gifted and a Great Variety of Other Individuals (1971). She retired at age 90.