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Research Interests

When I made the fateful crossing from the History Department to the medical world many moons ago, neither side knew what to make of it. A social historian amidst the clinicians: Whatever for?

Several years later, I became thoroughly entangled in the history of psychosomatic medicine, which inevitably drew me into the ever-shifting sands of psychiatric history. Along the way, I have acquired a reputation as an authority on the evolution of this unique specialty, with numerous publications under my belt.

Exploring historical and present developments in the classification and treatment of mental disorders remains a major focus of my work. Yet my previous areas of interest, ranging from changes in family interactions and sexual behavior to the evolution of other health disciplines (obstetrics, internal medicine, patient-physician relations), remain relevant as the firewall between historical and clinical studies continues to break down.

Selected Publications

The Making of the Modern Family (New York: Basic Books, 1975).

Women’s Bodies (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1991; originally published 1982).

Doctors and Their Patients: A Social History (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1991; originally published 1985).

From Paralysis to Fatigue: A History of Psychosomatic Illness in the Modern Era (New York: Free Press, 1992).

A History of Psychiatry from the Era of the Asylum to the Age of Prozac (New York: Wiley, 1997).

Written in the Flesh: A History of Desire (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005).

Before Prozac: The Troubled History of Mood Disorders in Psychiatry. (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

How Everyone Became Depressed: The Rise and Fall of the Nervous Breakdown. (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Partnership for Excellence: Medicine at the University of Toronto and Academic Hospitals. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013).

What Psychiatry Left Out of the DSM-5: Historical Mental Disorders Today. (New York and London: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group, 2015).


Kathryn Segesser, (Co- Supervisor / A Hood, J Mori), History Department. “Disordered Eating as a Leitfaden through Late Eighteenth-Century Psychiatry” (PhD conferred December 2015).

Craig Knox, (Supervisor), PhD candidate, IHPST, philosophy of psychiatry. Exploring the evolution of psychiatric disorders in diagnostic manuals and the underlying theories of disease that lead to their inclusion, in progress.

Allan Jeffrey Hunt, MD, practicing pathologist. (Supervisor), IHPST, “Development of Forensic Pathology in Ontario” (2000 paper accepted 2015). PhD candidate, IHPST, history of medicine, in progress.

Atara Messinger, MD candidate, Faculty of Medicine, 2017. (Supervisor), “Influence of emotion on physician burnout in internal medicine,” Continuation of research project begun with an MAA–CREMS Research Award and 2nd year UME course Determinants of Community Health. Ethics approval for the current phase of the investigation has been renewed until Nov. 29, 2016. In progress.


Contact Information

  • Personal Title: Professor; Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine; Professor of Psychiatry
  • Location: FG 83G, FitzGerald Building, Faculty of Medicine, 150 College Street
  • Telephone number: +1 (416) 978-2124
  • E-mail address: history.medicine@utoronto.ca