Symposium: Biography and its Place in the History of Psychology and Psychiatry (UCL)


University College London’s Centre for the History of Medicine is hosting a one-day symposium on Friday, 10 June 2011:

This one-day symposium will open up discussion about all aspects of the place of biography in the history of psychology and psychiatry. The main themes of the day will include questions such as:

  • Do biographical studies occupy a special or privileged position within the historiography of these human sciences?
  • What is biography? What kinds of questions can biographies hope to answer? And where should biographers not venture?
  • How historically have psychologists and psychiatrists themselves used individual patient ‘biographies’ to construct and legitimise their theories?
  • Can biography, as an immensely popular format, offer a vehicle for introducing more complex historical analysis to the general public?

Academic speakers will include:

  • Professor Daniel Todes (John Hopkins University)
    ‘Ivan Pavlov: “Objective” science as autobiography’
  • Dr Mathew Thomson (Warwick University)
    ‘Narrating the life of David Eder, Britain’s first psychoanalyst: reflections on the Biographical in the History of Psy’
  • Dr Roderick Buchanan (University of Melbourne)
    ‘Confessions of the reluctant biographer: Legacies and tensions of the biographical approach in the history of psychology’
  • Mr James Good (Durham University)
    ‘Title TBC’
  • Dr Peter Hegarty (University of Surrey)
    ‘From ideal husbands to inadequate wives: Gerrymandering marital happiness with the man who made IQ’
  • Ms Sarah Chaney (UCL)
    ‘”Hallucinations do not affect his will”: Nineteenth Century Asylum Case Histories and the Psychiatric Method’
  • Ms Corina Palasan (UCL)
    ‘Criminals’ stories. Use of biographical data in juvenile delinquency research at the Institute of Experimental and Applied Psychology, Cluj University, Romania, 1920-1940.’

The event will culminate in a panel-led discussion about the publishing and public engagement issues surrounding biographical approaches to the History of Science and Medicine. Panel guests will include Mark Pollard from the publishing house Pickering and Chatto.

Entry is free and all are welcome to attend. However, places are limited, so those who are interested should contact Emma Sutton, in advance, at to reserve a place.

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