Dr. Edward Shorter, Ph.D., F.R.S.C.

Jason A. Hannah Professor of the History of Medicine
Professor of Psychiatry


Edward Shorter was born in Evanston, Illinois, and completed a Ph.D. in modern social history at Harvard University in 1968. In 1967 he joined the History Department of the University of Toronto, rising to the rank of full professor ten years later. A highlight of his early work in European social history was The Making of the Modern Family (1975), which helped launch a new field of study.

While working on Modern Family, Prof. Shorter became intrigued by the impact of medical issues on women’s lives. This investigation required biomedical knowledge, so during the preparation of A History of Women’s Bodies (1982), he undertook two years of pre-clinical medical training to acquire the scientific background for scholarship in the social history of medicine. In 1991 his rising profile as a medical historian resulted in his appointment to the Hannah professorship in the Faculty of Medicine.

By this point Shorter’s research interests were shifting toward psychosocial medicine and psychiatry with the publication of a two-volume history of psychosomatic illness, From Paralysis to Fatigue (1992) and From the Mind Into the Body (1994). In 1995 he was elected to Fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada (F.R.S.C.).

Since the mid 1990s, Edward Shorter has emerged as one of the leading historians of psychiatry in the world. In 1996 he was cross-appointed to a professorship in the Department of Psychiatry. His numerous contributions to this discipline include A History of Psychiatry (1997), now the standard text in the field; A Historical Dictionary of Psychiatry (2006); Before Prozac (2009); and How Everyone Became Depressed (2013).  His latest book What Psychiatry Left Out of the DSM-5 was published by Routledge/Taylor and Francis in March 2015.

Dr. Shorter also authors a blog focusing on psychiatry and mental health issues on the Psychology Today website, called How Everyone Became Depressed.  You can read his posts here.

Research Interests

Edward Shorter’s research in the history of psychiatry continues to revolve around the evolution of diagnosis (nosology) and therapeutics. His current research interests include:

  • Pediatric catatonia and self-injurious behaviour (SIB) in autism, and the extent to which these devastating syndromes can be relieved with anti-catatonic treatments including electroconvulsive therapy
  • Melancholia as a distinctive illness in its own right, with characteristic biological markers
  • Teasing out the various components of psychotic illness which comprise the heterogeneous diagnostic label of “schizophrenia”

Shorter’s work on the evolution of the Faculty of Medicine and the Toronto Academic Health Science Network, begun with Partnership for Excellence, meanwhile, remains a fruitful area for further exploration. Many additional stories remain to be told.