The 7th Annual Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Distinguished Lecture in the History of Psychology

Join us on Thursday, May 16, 2019 for the 7th Annual Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Distinguished Lecture in the History of Psychology!

Speaker: Laura Stark, Vanderbilt University

Presentation: "The other Akron: Searching for the “normal” mind in postwar America"

Time: 5:30 p.m. Appetizers and cocktails, 6 p.m. Dinner, 7 p.m. Presentation

Location: The Williams Honors College, 180 S. College Street, Akron, OH 44325-1803

Registration: Register online. Register through mail, email, or fax. Registration closes on May 11.


Laura Stark

The World Health Organization declared the year 1959 “World mental health year.” At this point in time, the US National Institute of Mental Health was capping off its first decade of clinical research into the “normal” mind in the wards of the NIH Clinical Center—a research agenda that linked directly to the massive global concern about mental illness that the WHO declaration signaled. Yet the success of the NIMH research program was far from a foregone conclusion. In the early 1950s, NIMH scientists endeavored to understand mental illness by trying to make the “normal” mind pathological—most efficiently, they thought, by making normal people “psychotic” with drugs, such as LSD. But how and where could they find healthy civilians to live at the Clinical Center for months at a time as subjects of experiments specifically designed to make them psychotic? This lecture tells the story of scientists’ search for “normal control” research subjects in 1950s America and their discovery of healthy “volunteers” in the other Akron—that is, Akron, Pennsylvania. The US government’s recruitment program for healthy human subjects quickly expanded beyond Akron, Pennsylvania. By the 1980s, NIH recruited from cities and towns throughout the US that has a very specific set of features in common, and included sites in Ohio. In telling the long history of NIMH’s recruitment and use of healthy civilians for in-house experiments, this lecture invites conversation about the people and places behind the “human materials” used across the globe in clinical research today.

Laura Stark is Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University, Associate Editor of the journal History & Theory, and Advisory Editor for the journals History of Psychology and Isis. Stark’s first book, Behind Closed Doors: IRBs and the Making of Ethical Research, was published in 2012 by University of Chicago Press. Her second book, The Normals: A People’s History, explores how a market for healthy civilian “human subjects” emerged in law, science, and everyday imagination. The project traces the production of a moral sensibility and a legal system to enact this market for healthy civilians in the post-World War II period. It is based on a vernacular archive she created with more than 100 “normal control” research subjects and scientists who took part in postwar experiments at the US National Institutes of Health, now archived at Countway Library for the History of Medicine. Stark was recipient of the 2014 Early Career Award from the Society for the History of Psychology and the 2010 Burnham Early Career Prize from the History of Science Society’s Forum for the History of the Human Sciences.

About the Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Distinguished Lecture

This lecture series honors Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr., an outstanding teachLudy T. Benjamin,, scholar, and researcher, whose work has contributed significantly to our understanding of psychology and its history.

The annual Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. Distinguished Lecture in the History of Psychology is hosted by the CCHP each year in May.

The CCHP invites you to sponsor a lecture.  See additional details on the sponsorship letter.

Past lectures are available to view through the CCHP Youtube channel:

2018: Dr. David G. Myers

2017: Dr. Keith Humphreys

2016 : Dr. Scott Lilienfeld

2015 : Dr. Elizabeth Loftus

2014: Dr. Andrew Winston

2013: Dr. Henry "Roddy" Roediger