Alfred Freeborn is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Practices of Validation in the Biomedical Sciences Research Group at the MPIWG. Alfred currently investigates changes in how psychiatric research has been evaluated as part of the postwar globalization of biomedicine. Alfred studied for a BA in History at the University of Cambridge, receiving the Cambridge Historical Society Prize for his dissertation on early modern utopian writing. In 2015 he was awarded an Isaac Newton Trust scholarship to complete an MPhil in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science where he worked on diverse areas of research from Enlightenment cartography to twentieth-century social theory. 

In 2016 Alfred moved to Berlin to pursue a doctorate at the Chair for the History of Science at the Humboldt University. His doctorate combined recently declassified archival sources from the UK Medical Research Council with oral historical interviews to critically examine the rise of biological psychiatry in postwar Britain. In 2020 Alfred was a visiting scholar at the German Historical Institute in London and a visiting lecturer in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck, where he taught courses on the history of the human sciences. He has published on the historiography of the neurosciences and the philosophy of biomarker research in contemporary biomedicine. Currently he is developing his doctoral research into a monograph with the tentative title Biomedical Madness: Schizophrenia and the Making of Biological Psychiatry in Postwar Britain.


Biomedical Visions: Aesthetics, Epistemology, and Medical Practice


Commoning Biomedicine: Networking Decentralized Collections of Oral Histories


History of Statistical Thinking and Practice in Medicine


Seeking Global Validation: Scales of Validity in Psychiatric and Biomedical Research


The History of Lucid Dreaming Research: An Interdisciplinary Oral History


No projects were found for this scholar.

Selected Publications

Freeborn, Alfred (2023). “Review of: Noortje Jacobs: Ethics by Committee: A History of Reasoning Together about Medicine, Science, Society, and the State. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 2022.” Isis 114 (3): 679–680.…

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Freeborn, Alfred (2023). What Can the History of Schizophrenia Teach Us About “Revolutionary” Breakthroughs in Science and Medicine? (film). Latest Thinking.

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Freeborn, Alfred (2022). “Review of: Horwitz, Allan V.: DSM: A History of Psychiatry’s Bible. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press 2021.” The FASEB Journal 36 (4): 1–4.

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Freeborn, Alfred (2021). “Review of: Nicolas Langlitz: Chimpanzee Culture Wars: Rethinking Human Nature Alongside Japanese, European, and American Cultural Primatologists. Princeton: University Press, 2020.” History of the Human Sciences, June 1,…

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Upcoming Events

Past Events

Presentations, Talks, & Teaching Activities

Psychiatric Epidemiology and the Question of Scale

Speaker Series in the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Zoom

Crisis and Consensus: Regulating Psychiatric Diagnosis after WW II

European Association for the History of Medicine and Health Biennal Conference, Oslo

Testing Psychiatrists to Diagnose Schizophrenia: Statistical Validation and Professional Self-Regulation in postwar Psychiatry

Universität Erfurt

Historisches Seminar
In Search of Biomedical Validity: Towards a Cross-Disciplinary History of Validation Practices

Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology, University of Toronto Symposium, together with Simon Brausch, Sam Ducourant, Ariane Hanemaayer, Lara Keuck, Michele Luchetti, and Hanna Worliczek

Testing Psychiatrists to Regulate Diagnosis after WWII

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Between Transcultural Disease and International Diagnostic Concept: The International Pilot Study of Schizophrenia (1965-1973)

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

Health Beyond Medicine
Between Transcultural Disease and International Diagnostic Concept: The International Pilot Study of Schizophrenia (1965–1973)

Evidenzpraktiken Workshop. Villa Vigoni, Italy

Practicing Oral History and the Politics of Novelty in the Life Sciences

7. Offenes Forum Geschichte der Lebenswissenschaften (FoGeL), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany

FoGeL 2021
Making Biological Psychiatry in Britain around 1970

British Society for the History of Science Annual Conference

Forgetting Functional Psychosis: Biological Psychiatry in Post-WWII Britain and the Rediscovery of the Schizophrenic Brain, 1970-1994

German Historical Institute Stipendiatenkolloquium

Measuring the “Broken Brain”: Neuroimaging and the “Biological Revolution” in American and British Psychiatry 1970–2000

American Association for the History of Medicine Annual Conference

Medien & Features

Nachrichten & Presse

Globalizing Schizophrenia: History and Legacy of the WHO Schizophrenia Studies (Frist 1. Dec. 2023)