Notable People

View a list of Notable People

R D Laing

Psychiatrist and Psychoanalyst
Born 7 October 1927, Glasgow, Scotland.
Died 23 August 1989.

A world-renowned psychiatrist, his radical approach questioned all norms of the mental health practioners of his day.

Connection to the University of Glasgow: Alumnus, Staff
GU Degree: MB ChB, 1951;

Discover more psychiatrists; psychoanalysts on the University of Glasgow Story website


The following achievement is associated with R D Laing:

Rethinking Schizophrenia
R D Laing’s contribution to psychiatry was considerable and centred upon his way of understanding serious mental illness.


Ronald David Laing (1927-1989) was a graduate of the University who taught in the Department of Psychological Medicine during the mid-1950s. He became a popular psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who was a controversial figure in the "counter-culture" of the 1960s.

Laing was born in Glasgow and was educated at Hutchesons' Boys Grammar School. After graduating MBChB from the University in 1951, he worked at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Neurosurgical Unit at Killearn. He was conscripted into the army, serving as a psychiatrist, and then taught in the University's Department of Psychological Medicine from 1953 until 1956.

In 1956, Laing moved to London to train as psychoanalyst at the Tavistock Clinic, and he worked there until 1967. He published a number of books in the 1960s and 1970s, including the ground-breaking The Divided Self (1960) and The Self and Others (1961). Laing's stated intention was to "make madness, and the process of madness, comprehensible", and he argued that mental illness was often a reaction to an individual's inability to cope with family and social pressures. He went on to explore the ethics of psychology and challenge many of the generally-accepted values of the psychiatric profession.

Laing was appointed Chairman of the Langham Clinic, providing psychotherapy and training in psychiatry, in 1962. In 1965 he was one of the founders of the Philadelphia Association, which offered alternative approaches to the treatment of mental health at a number of residential communities.

A Royal College of Psychiatry prize has been established in his honour