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David Kennedy Henderson FRSE FRCPE (24 April 1884 – 20 April 1965) was a Scottish physician and psychiatrist and served as president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh 1949 to 1951.


He was born on 24 April 1884 in Dumfries, Scotland. In 1913 he was awarded a PhD by the University of Edinburgh for his thesis "Cerebral syphilis a clinical analysis of twenty-six cases, seven with autopsy".[1]

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.[2][3] The Henderson Hospital, a specialist national unit in London set up to manage and treat 'psychopathic' personality disorder, was named after him.[4]

He was physician-superintendent in charge at the Gartnavel Royal Hospital in Glasgow from 1921 to 1932. In 1932 he replaced the late Dr George Matthew Robertson as Physician Superintendent of the Edinburgh Royal Hospital, being replaced in turn in 1955 by Dr Thomas Arthur Munro.[5]

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.[6]

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.[7][8]

Academic offices
Preceded by
William Douglas Denton Small
President of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Succeeded by
William Alister Alexander


  1. ^ Kennedy, Henderson, David (1913). "Cerebral syphilis a clinical analysis of twenty-six cases, seven with autopsy".
  2. ^ Psychopathic states. Henderson, D. K. New York, NY, US: W W Norton & Co. (1939). 178 pp.
  3. ^ Hildebrand, M 2004 The Construct of Psychopathy
  4. ^ Henderson Hospital 1947-2008
  5. ^ "Physician Superintendents of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital collection summary". Retrieved 2018-12-28.
  6. ^ Vignette: a doyen of ‘psychological medicine’ Sir David Henderson Douglas Haldane, 2006.
  7. ^ Beveridge, A. (2011) Portrait of the Psychiatrist as a Young Man: The Early Writing and Work of R. D. Laing, 1927-1960 Oxford University Press
  8. ^ DAVID KENNEDY HENDERSON (1884-1965) D. EWEN CAMERON Am J Psychiatry 1965;122:467-469.