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 Science, History of Psychiatry, History of Cybernetics, 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


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

 articles and book chapters

"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.

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

"'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




Invited Lectures and Presentations (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 Chicago at Illinois, 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