Biography and Research Interests
I am a historian of science and medicine with an ongoing research focus on the mind sciences. I am interested in what happens when disciplines such as anthropology and psychiatry come together to produce new knowledge about human subjects. My current dissertation research examines the formation of the World Health Organization and the rise of global epidemiological psychiatry in the three decades following World War Two. In particular, I am researching the WHO's studies on schizophrenia across cultural boundaries. In addition to my dissertation project on psychiatric epidemiology, I have an ongoing research focus on the history of epidemiology as it pertains to both communicable and non-communicable disease. I am currently living in Geneva for the purposes of archival research.
In 2013 I obtained an MA in history from the University of Sydney. My thesis examined the work of Australian psychiatrist John Ewart Cawte. From the early 1960s Cawte led socio-medical expeditions to Australian Aboriginal communities to survey the nature and prevalence of mental illness and what he termed "social disintegration." I situated Cawte's hypotheses about "the Aboriginal mind" within the ongoing political context of assimilation. A copy of the thesis is available here: <https://www.academia.edu/4823142/From_the_Edge_of_Annihilation_Australian_Ethnopsychiatry_and_Indigenous_Assimilation>
In the Spring of 2017 I completed general examinations with professors in the following fields:
Professor Keith Wailoo: The History of Medicine and Public Health.
Professor Katja Guenther: The History of Psychiatry.
Professor Erika Milam: The History of the Human Sciences.
Professor Gyan Prakash: Colonial Knowledge.
Alongside an MA in history, I have a BA (History) and a Masters of Development Studies (Department of Anthropology), both from the University of Sydney.
I have peer reviewed articles in the journals History of Psychiatry and Health and History. Between 2011-2015 I was affiliated with Professor Warwick Anderson's ARC-funded project 'Race and Ethnicity in the Global South' within the Department of History, University of Sydney. From 2018 through 2021 I have been affiliated with Professor Bruno Strasser's project 'Rethinking Science and Public Participation,' Section de Biologie, Université de Genève.
For the academic year of 2019-20 I held a Fellowship of Woodrow Wilson Scholars in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University.
I can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- David Robertson, ‘Of Mice and Schoolchildren: A Conceptual History of ‘Herd Immunity’,’ American Journal of Public Health, vol. 111, no. 8, (2021): 1473-1480.
- David Robertson, 'Evaluating the Aboriginal Child’s Mind: Assimilation and Cross-Cultural Psychology in Australia,' History of Psychiatry, vol. 29, no. 3, (2018): 331-349.
- David Robertson, Raymond L. Specht and Barry Nurcombe, 'Assessment of Mental Health in Indigenous Australians: The Role of John Ewart Cawte, a Pioneer in Transcultural Research,' Health and History, vol. 16, no. 2, (2014): 107-114.
- Department of History, Princeton University, Global History Lab: A History of the World since 1300, June - August, 2020.
- Department of History, Sydney University, HSTY2652: Genocide in Historical Perspective, February 2012 - July 2012.
- Department of History, Sydney University, HSTY1044: Twentieth-Century Europe, July 2012 - December 2012.
- 2020 Early Career Award, European Society for the History of Human Sciences, for the paper 'The World Health Organization and the Emergence of an Information Infrastructure in Postwar Psychiatric Epidemiology,' presented at the Society's 2019 meeting in Budapest, Hungary.
- 'Mental Disorders, Collective Observation, and the International Classification of Diseases,' History of Knowledge: Research, Resources, and Perspectives, May 31, 2018.
- ‘https://medicalhealthhumanities.com/2019/09/17/from-the-desert-to-the-laboratory-mike-jays-mescaline-a-global-history-of-the-first-psychedelic/,' SYNAPSIS: A Health Humanities Journal, September 17, 2019.
- 'Images of an Imagined Future: Photographing Deinstitutionalization in a Developing World,' SYNAPSIS: A Health Humanities Journal, July 1, 2019.
- 'Weaving the Tapestry of the History of Psychiatry: Anne Harrington’s Mind Fixers,' review of Anne Harrington’s Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2019), SYNAPSIS: A Health Humanities Journal, May 25, 2019.
- 'A New History of Hereditary Science,' review of Theodore M. Porter, Genetics in the Madhouse: The Unknown History of Human Heredity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018), SYNAPSIS: A Health Humanities Journal, February 15, 2019.
- 'Three ‘Cs’ of Global Health’s Avalanche of Numbers,' SYNAPSIS: A Health Humanities Journal, December 15, 2018.
- 'Databases, Diagnoses, and the History of Psychiatry,' SYNAPSIS: A Health Humanities Journal, November 2, 2018.