Alfred Freeborn

Predoctoral Fellow (Sep 2021-Dec 2021)

Alfred Freeborn is a Predoctoral 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 (submitted) 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 gave 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.


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


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Selected Publications

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…

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Freeborn, Alfred (2020). “Review of: Jürgen Renn, The Evolution of Knowledge: Rethinking Science for the Anthropocene. Princeton: University Press, 2020.” History of the Human Sciences, October.…

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Keuck, Lara K., and Alfred Freeborn (2020). “The Limits of Biomarkers. Contemporary Re-Phrasings of Canguilhem.” In Vital Norms: Canguilhem’s “The Normal and the Pathological” in the Twenty-First Century, ed. P.-O. Méthot, 346–367. Paris: Hermann.

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Freeborn, Alfred (2019). “Review of: Chemla, Karine and Evelyn Fox Keller (Eds): Cultures Without Culturalism: The Making of Scientific Knowledge. Duke University Press 2017.” Journal for General Philosophy of Science 50 (4). 50 (4): 587–592. https:…

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Past Events

Presentations, Talks, & Teaching Activities

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