David Kennedy Henderson (Sir)

David Kennedy (Sir) Henderson wiki

David Kennedy Henderson b.24 April 1884 d.20 April 1965 was a Scottish psychiatrist and a president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.


He co-published with R.D. Gillespie A Textbook of Psychiatry (first edition 1927), which became internationally influential for several decades. A series of lectures he gave in New York, America, were published as Psychopathic states in 1939, and ended up contributing to a narrowing of the public understanding of psychopathy as violently antisocial, though Henderson had described various different types many of which were not violent or criminal. The Henderson Hospital, a specialist national unit in London set up to manage and treat ‘psychopathic’ personality disorder, was named after him.

He was physician-superintendent in charge at the Gartnavel Royal Hospital in Glasgow from 1921 to 1932. His textbook on psychiatry has been described as the key to the Glasgow approach to mental illness, and Henderson in turn credited the approach of the influential Adolf Meyer whom he had worked with in America. Henderson also studied for some months in Germany with a key founder of modern psychiatry, Emil Kraepelin, whom he admired but found lacking in sensitivity to patients.

He was knighted in 1947 and elected president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1949. He died on 20 April 1965 in Edinburgh, Scotland.


Henderson taught Donald Ewan Cameron, who also worked at the Gartnavel Hospital, would write an obituary for Henderson in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Cameron would rise to international prominence as President of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, American Psychiatric Association and World Psychiatric Association, but ultimately be known for conducting harmful experiments on mental patients as part of the MK Ultra project. Henderson’s approach as expressed in his textbook is also thought to have influenced the infamous ‘antipsychiatrist’ R.D. Laing who later worked at the Gartnavel Hospital

David Kennedy (Sir) Henderson Kt(1947) MB ChB Edin(1907) MD Edin(1913) Hon MD NUI(1958) Hon DSc McGill(1959)

David Henderson  b 24/05/1884 d 20/05/1965
The most eminent psychiatrist in this country, and probably in Europe, between the two World Wars, was born in Dumfries, Scotland, where his father, John Henderson, was a lawyer. His mother was Agnes, daughter of James Davidson, a merchant. He was educated at Dumfries Academy, the Royal High School, Edinburgh web and Edinburgh Universityweb In preparation for his chosen work he spent eight years in post-graduate study, in succession under Sir Thomas Clouston at Morningside, Alexander Bruce in Edinburgh, Adolf Meyer in New York, Kraepelin and Alois Alzheimer in Munich, Mott in the London County Council Pathological Laboratory, and again with Adolf Meyer, this time at the Phipps Psychological Clinic of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore.
After service in France as a psychiatric specialist with the R.A.M.C, he was appointed in 1918 senior assistant to the Glasgow Royal Asylum, Gartnavel. In 1921 he became physician superintendent to Gartnavel, and lecturer in mental diseases at the University; there he remained until 1932 when he was appointed physician superintendent of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Nervous and Mental Disorders and professor of psychiatry at the University. He held both appointments until his retirement in 1954.
By then Henderson had an international reputation. His was the chief contemporary impetus to the study of the pre-senile dementias and psychopathic personalities, and to the acceptance of the importance of psychiatric evidence that would replace hostility and punishment by compassion and help to men and women who were in conflict with the law by reason of their unstable personalities.
He maintained that to this end there must be an established place for the teaching of psychiatry in the medical curriculum; to him psychiatry was not so much a specialty but the other half of medicine, the way to the understanding of the psychiatric aspects of every illness. Only then could medical men fulfil their main function, which was to help people to improve the quality of their lives by feeling, thinking and acting better than previously. In this work they would need the support of psychiatric social workers and occupational therapists.
He was a superb clinician with an uncanny power of arriving with delicacy and tact at the core of an individual problem. In demonstration he formulated his findings in their importance on the development of symptoms, and in teaching, which was never dogmatic, stressed in lucid, non-technical language his belief in the healing power of nature, the need for understanding of the total personality of the patient and the value of inspiring hope. He was impatient of too much theory, and, while he respected scientific experiment, life was the laboratory that most passionately interested him.
Intensely serious, but with a twinkle in his eye and a splendid sense of humour, he was generous in praise of every junior who acted according to his own careful judgment. In administration he was the paternalist; his hospital patients were his extended family. He contributed numerous papers to various medical journals and was the main author of a Textbook of psychiatry for students and practitioners (1927), which went into nine editions in his lifetime. Perhaps the most important of his other writings were a chapter on the affective reaction-types in Psychiatry for practitioners, edited by H. A. Christian (1936), the monograph Psychopathic states (1939) and the Morison lectures on society and criminal conduct (1955).
His many honours never affected his modesty; each seemed to surprise him. He was knighted in 1947 and given honorary degrees by the National Universities of Ireland and the Universities of McGill and Edinburgh. He was president of the Royal Medico-Psychological Association, 1946-7, of the section of psychiatry of the Royal Society of Medicine, 1947, and of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, 1950-51, and was elected to honorary fellowships of learned societies at home, in Europe and in America.
At Edinburgh he was Morison lecturer in 1931 and 1954, and Norman Kerr memorial lecturer in 1936. In 1938 he gave the Salmon memorial lecture in New York and in 1939 the Maudsley lecture of the Medico-Psychological Association. He was chairman of the College Committee on Psychological Medicine, a member of the Expert Committee on the Work of Psychologists and Psychiatrists in the Services, and was external examiner on psychiatry to the University of Durham and the National University of Ireland.
For many years he played good tennis; he had been awarded a blue by Edinburgh University. Later he enjoyed trout fishing until rheumatoid arthritis crippled his fingers. In 1917 he married Margaret Van Vranken, daughter of William Mabon, a physician. They had three daughters.

Richard R Trail [Amer. J. Psychiat., 1965, 122, 467-9; Brit.med.J., 1965, 1, 1194 (p), 1384; J, nerv. ment. Dis., 1965,141,263-4; Lancet, 1965, 1, 964-5 (p); Scotsman, 21 Apr. 1965 (p); Times, 23 Apr. 1965 (p).]  (Volume V, page 188) SOURCE

GD16 Physician Superintendents of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital

Collection Summary

Reference Code: GB239 GD16
Title: Physician Superintendents of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital 
Dates of Creation of Material: 1850s-1980s
Level of Description: Fonds
Extent and Medium of the Unit of Description: 12 shelf metres: bound volumes, papers, architectural plans, photographs, artworks

Name of creator(s)
David Skae (1814-1873); Thomas Smith Clouston (1840-1915); George Matthew Robertson (1864-1932); Sir David Kennedy Henderson (1884-1965); T A Munro (1905-1966); James Wigham Affleck; Thomas Laycock, physician (1812-1876); Charles John Robertson Milne, physician; Ethel Elizabeth Robertson, psychiatrist; William Boyd, psychiatrist; Robert Clennell, patient; John Willis Mason, patient; John Home, patient; Alexander Kennedy, patient; William Bartholomew, patient; John Stuart Morton, patient; John Myles, artist

LOST HOSPITALS OF LONDON  Henderson Hospital 1947-2008  2 Homeland Drive,  Sutton, Surrey SM2 5LT

Following WW2 a Social Rehabilitation Unit was established on a corner of the Belmont Hospital site for soldiers suffering from war neuroses (paralysis, tremors, depression or recurring nightmares – what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder).

The unit progressed to treating adults who had experienced extreme neglect or abuse in childhood, to help them overcome their difficulties.

In 1959 it was renamed the Henderson Hospital, after the Scottish psychiatrist Professor Sir David Henderson (1884-1965), author of Psychopathic States, a book which became an instant classic on the subject.

It was the first British hospital to develop a patient-orientated approach to the treatment of psychopathic disorders.  Its ethos was that those who had experienced similar traumas would be best placed to offer support to their peers – a ‘therapeutic community’.

Adult patients suffering from personality disorder would be resident for up to a year.  Pioneering treatment consisted of combined group-based psychotherapy and sociotherapy as alternatives to medication.  Art and music therapy, psychodrama and work groups for cooking, gardening and maintenance took place regularly during the week.  Patients outnumbered staff by 3 to 1 and were given a major say in who could be admitted.

In 1965 the Hospital had 100 beds, of which 68 were staffed.  The weekly cost of an in-patient was £29 9s 8d (£29.48), which rose dramatically in 1966 to £47 12s 8d (£47.63).

In 1970 the weekly cost of an in-patient was £48.54 and, in 1971, £56.35.

Until 2005 the Hospital had received national funding from the National Specialist Commissioning Advisory Group (NSCAG), part of the Department of Health.  In 2006 the NSCAG passed the task of commissioning the Henderson Hospital to a consortium of 128 PCTs in South East England, all of which could refer patients to the Hospital.  Each PCT was required to pay the Hospital £23,000 annually, regardless of the number of patients it referred there (or not).  However, the consortium was unable to prevent PCTs from withdrawing funding for the 2007-2008 period if they so chose.  As most PCTs were under financial pressures of their own, about two-thirds of the consortium opted to pay on a cost-per-case basis.  Thus, the contract money for the Hospital dried up and the 29-bedded Henderson Hospital became financially unviable as referrals dwindled.  By the beginning of 2008 only five patients were resident.

The successful Henderson Hospital – one of only two such specialist hospitals in the country to treat personality disorders effectively and humanely – closed ‘temporarily’ in April 2008, a victim of the new, complicated, and perhaps self-defeating, government funding policy.

One of the patients was discharged as cured and the remaining four transferred to the Cassel Hospital in Richmond.

Present status (August 2008)
The main gate is closed and padlocked.  The building remains vacant while debate continues about the Hospital re-opening here or elsewhere

main gatesHospital buildingHospital building
Gartnavel was the fourth of these institutions to be built. In 1805, … diseases in the University of Glasgow, and Dr Sir David Henderson.

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