Tara Abraham | College of Arts

Tara Abraham

Associate Professor
Phone number: 
519.824.4120 ext. 56012
1010 Mackinnon Extension


Ph.D. University of Toronto, 2000
M.A. University of Toronto, 1996
B.Sc. (Honours) McMaster University, 1992


Areas of Graduate Supervision

history of medicine

history of psychiatry

history of science and technology

history of the human sciences

My current book project, funded by a SSHRC Insight Grant, examines the entry of psychiatry into the medical school curriculum in early 20th-century America.  Using Harvard University's medical school as a case study, I am interested in the rhetoric psychiatrists used to promote their field as a medical specialty and how this translated into their aims of pedagogical reform. I also take the rise of psychiatry as a medical specialty as contingent on society and culture during this period--particularly the rise of new patient populations--and explore the relations between education and the construction of medical expertise. 


University of Guelph, Department of History, 2006-
York University, Programme in Science and Technology Studies,
   Assistant Professor, 2004-06
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, Germany,
   Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2002-04
Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology, MIT,
   Postdoctoral Fellow, 2000-02

First Vice-President, Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, 2019-2022


Courses Taught in 2021-22

HIST*4200 Health, Mind, and Body

HIST*3310 Disease and History

HIST*1250 Science and Technology in a Global Context



Rebel Genius: Warren S. McCulloch's Transdisciplinary Life in Science (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016).

    edited volumes

Editor, "Warren S. McCulloch and His Circle," guest-edited issue of Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 37, no. 3 (September 2012).

   articles and book chapters

"Standard assessments", Invited Contribution to Symposium on James Elwick, Making a Grade: Victorian Examinations and the Rise of Standardized Testing. (Toronto, 2021). In Metascience (2022) 31: 331-335.

“The Macy Conferences on Cybernetics: Re-instantiating the Mind,” History and Systems of Psychology, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology (Oxford), April 2020.

"Cybernetics", Routledge Handbook of the Computational Mind, edited by Martin Sprevak and Matteo Colombo (London: Routledge, 2019), pp. 52-64.

"Psychiatry in American medical education: The case of Harvard's medical school, 1900-1945," Canadian Bulletin of Medical History (2018) 35(1): 63-93.

"Between the mind twist and the brain spot: The material dimensions of psychopathology in the work of Elmer E. Southard," Nuncius: Journal of the Material and Visual History of Science (2017) 32(2): 261-285.

“Modelling the mind: The case of Warren S. McCulloch,” Canadian Medical Association Journal (2016) 188 (13): 974-975. 

"'The materials of science, the ideas of science, and the poetry of science': Warren McCulloch and Jerry Lettvin," Interdisciplinary Science Reviews (2012) 37(3): 269-286.

“Transcending Disciplines: Scientific Styles in Studies of the Brain in Mid-Twentieth Century America,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences (2012) 43: 552-68.

“Brain” in Eine Naturgeschichte für das 21. Jahrhundert: Hommage à, zu Ehren von, in Honor of Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, edited by Safia Azzouni, Christina Brandt, Bernd Gausemeier, Julia Kursell, Henning Schmidgen, and Barbara Wittmann (Berlin: Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, 2011), pp. 239-240.

“The Role of Negative Feedback in Cybernetics," in Peter Hammerstein, Manfred D. Laubichler, and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, ed., Regulation: Historical and Current Themes in Theoretical Biology (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, forthcoming 2013).

“Nicolas Rashevsky’s Mathematical Biophysics.” Journal of the History of Biology 37, no. 2 (2004): 333-385.

“From Theory to Data: Representing Neurons in the 1940s.” Biology and Philosoph 18, no. 3 (2003): 415-426.

“Integrating Mind and Brain: Warren S. McCulloch, Cerebral Localization, and Experimental Epistemology,” Endeavour 27, no. 1 (2003): 32-36.

“(Physio)logical Circuits: The Intellectual Origins of the McCulloch-Pitts Neural Networks." Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 38, no. 1 (2002): 3-25.



Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

     Insight Grant, 2018-2023

     Standard Research Grant, 2007-2011

Awards and Fellowships

Visiting Scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, 2014

Associated Scholar, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Toronto, 2014-15

American Philosophical Society Library Fellowship, 2003


Invited Lectures (Selected)

"Warren S. McCulloch, the Illinois Neuropsychiatric Institute, and American Psychiatry, 1941-1952", 25th Annual Boshes Lectureship, Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation, College of Medicine, University of Illinois at Chicago, 25 April 2019.

"The Misfits: Warren S. McCulloch, Psychiatry, and Disciplinary Legitimacy in Twentieth-Century American Medicine," History and Theory of Psychology Department Colloquium, York University, September 2017

“On the Uses of Scientific Biography: Warren McCulloch and American Cybernetics”, Science and Technology Studies Seminar Series, York University, Toronto, October 2014 

“Rebel Genius? Warren McCulloch, Autobiography, and American Cybernetics”, Sixth Annual Symposium on History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine, Ryerson University, Toronto, May 2014 

“Scientific Styles in American Brain Research of the Mid-Twentieth Century, History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine Seminar Series, Washington University in St. Louis, March 2010 


Presentations (selected)

“Transforming Psychiatry in American Medical Education: The Role of the Commonwealth Fund, 1900-1945,” Canadian Society for the History of Medicine, University of Regina, May 2018 

"Between the Mind Twist and the Brain Spot: The Material Dimensions of Psychopathology in the Work of Elmer E. Southard," Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, Ryerson University, May 2017 

“The Sciences of Brain and Mind in American Medical Education: Psychiatry, Neurology, and Harvard’s Medical School, 1900-1945”, History of Science Society Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, November 2016 

"New Disciplinary Dynamics in Post World War II Brain Research: The Case of Francis O. Schmitt's Neurosciences Research Program at MIT", History of Science Society Annual Meeting, Montreal, Québec, November 2010 

 “Styles of Scientific Reasoning in Cybernetics and the Sciences of Brain and Mind” in organized session, Biological Theory and Conceptual Power: Studies in Scientific Practice, Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology, Emmanuel College, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, July 2009 

“Transcending Disciplines: The Case of Cybernetics and the Cognitive Sciences” in Organized Session: Transforming the Social and Psychological Sciences: Theory, Research, and Culture in Mid-20th-Century American Society, Three Societies 2008: Sixth Joint Meeting of the British Society for the History of Science, the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science, and the History of Science Society, Oxford University, Oxford, UK, July 2008 

“Warren S. McCulloch's mechanization of the brain and mind," in organized session on Contextualizing the Cognitive Revolution, History of Science Society Annual Meeting, Vancouver, BC, November 2006 




Area of Research

Asia/Middle East - HIST
Canada - HIST