The British Psychological Society’s History of Psychology Centre, in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines, has announced the first of its autumn talks as part of the BPS History of Psychological Disciplines Seminar Series. On September 22, Allan Beveridge, of Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline, will be speaking on “Portrait of the Psychiatrist as a Young Man: The Early Writing and Work of RD Laing, 1927-1960” Full details follow below.
The British Psychological Society History of Psychology Centre in conjunction with UCL’s Centre for the History of the Psychological Disciplines
Location: UCL Arts and Humanities Common Room (G24), Foster Court, Malet Place, London WC1E 7JG
Monday 22 September
Dr Allan Beveridge (Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline)
“Portrait of the Psychiatrist as a Young Man: The Early Writing and Work of RD Laing, 1927-1960”
For a period in the 1960s, Ronald Laing was the most famous psychiatrist in the world. His books sold in millions and were translated into many languages. In his most celebrated work, The Divided Self, published in 1960, he argued that madness was understandable. Laing’s reputation subsequently went into serious decline, but in recent years there has been renewed interest in him and a number of biographies and books have been published. This interest has been fuelled by a disenchantment with the claims of the neurosciences and an unease about biotechnology. Laing’s existential approach of treating the patient as a person rather than a malfunctioning mechanism has new-found appeal.
This paper will look at Laing’s early career up to the publication of his first book in 1960. It will begin by looking at the major influences on his work: psychiatric theory; existential analysis; religion; and the Arts. It will then examine Laing’s early clinical career, firstly in the British Army, followed by his time as a junior doctor at Gartnavel Royal Hospital and the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, before his subsequent move to the Tavistock Clinic in London.