Schizophrenia, evolution and the borders of biology: on Huxley et al.'s 1964 paper in Nature

Raf de Bont*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In october 1964, julian huxley, ernst mayr, humphrey osmond and abram hoffer co-published a controversial paper in nature, in which they tried to explain the persistence of schizophrenia from an evolutionary perspective. This article will elucidate how the reputed authors composed this paper to make it a strong argument for biological psychiatry. Through a close reading of their correspondence, it will furthermore clarify the elements which remained unspoken in the paper, but which were elementary in its genesis.the first was the dominance of psychoanalytical theory in (american) psychiatry — a dominance which the authors wanted to break. The second was the ongoing discussion on the boundaries of biological determinism and the desirability of a new kind of eugenics. As such, the huxley et al. Paper can be used to study the central issues of psychiatry in a pivotal era of its history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144-159
JournalHistory of Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Abram Hoffer
  • Ernst Mayr
  • eugenics
  • evolution
  • Humphrey Osmond
  • psychoanalysis
  • schizophrenia
  • Thomas Huxley

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