Autism in the mid-20th century

Project Leader: Sean Cohmer

When Leo Kanner first described early childhood autism in 1943, he didn't seem to understand the effect of leaving the causal understanding of his new condition up for grabs. Over the decades that followed American Psychiatry underwent a radical change partly because of the reaction to autism's early diagnostic criteria, but also in part because some in the psychiatric discipline sought to partake in what historians of psychiatry and medicine have termed "the medical model". The neo-Kraepelinians, as they were called, sought to make diagnostic categories found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III (DSM-III) "more scientific". My master's thesis seeks to contextualize the making, and remaking, of autism by way of diagnostic categories like the ones found in the DSM. Digital HPS methods will help me to create visualizations of how a clinical category, autism, evolved.