Department of History

Ellen Dwyer

  • Professor Emeritus, Department of History
  • Professor Emeritus, Criminal Justice


  • B.A. at College of New Rochelle, 1967
  • A.B. at Yale University, 1970
  • Ph.D. at Yale University, 1977

Contact Information

Ballantine 742
(812) 855-7581


Ellen Dwyer

My research and teaching interests move in three related directions. Trained in nineteenth-century American cultural and social history, I teach graduate courses in that area. Post-Ph.D., I moved into the social history of medicine, focusing in particular on the history of psychiatry and neurology in the United States. Initially, I continued to explore these areas in the context of nineteenth-century America but my research has moved into the twentieth century. From time to time, I explore these issues in undergraduate seminars and graduate readings courses on the history of psychiatry. Most recently, I have turned to looking at the ways in which race and gender shaped military neuropsychiatry during World War II, with a particular emphasis on the experiences of African-American soldiers and doctors. Finally, I have a long-standing interest in the history of social control in the United States, with a particular focus on prisons and asylums. Within the Department of Criminal Justice, I teach both undergraduate and graduate courses in this area. I also regularly offer courses that explore the relationship between mental health care and criminal justice in the contemporary United States. These draw on literature from multiple fields: public health, psychiatry, psychology, sociology, and law.

Selected Awards

  • Sonnedecker Grant, History of Pharmacy Archives (2004)
  • Fulbright-Hayes Scholar (Spring, 1999)
  • Indiana University Summer Faculty Fellowships (1989 and 2004)
  • Core Faculty Member, RISP-NIH Grant (1994-1998)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities, Science and Technology Grant (1989-1994)
  • Epilepsy Foundation of America Grant (1989-1992)
  • American Philosophical Society Research Grant (1988) [declined]
  • National Endowment for the Humanities/American Association of State and Local History Grant (1988-1989)

Research Interests

  • Psychiatry and neurology in the U.S., 1830-present
  • history of gender in the U.S.
  • medicine and law in the U.S., 1830-present

Courses Recently Taught

  • Seminar in nineteenth-century American history
  • The Mad and the Bad
  • Medicine and law in the U.S., 1830-present

Publication Highlights


Homes for the Mad: Life inside Two Nineteenth-Century Lunatic Asylums. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1987.


"The State and the Multiply-Disadvantages: The Case of Craig Colony," in Steven Noll and James W. Trent, eds., Mental Retardation in America: A Historical Reader (New York: NYU Press, 2004), pp. 258-80.

"Toward New Narratives of Twentieth-Century Medicine." Bulletin of the History of Medicine 74, no. 4 (Winter 2000): 786-93.

"Stories of Epilepsy, 1880-1930," in Charles Rosenberg and Janet Golden, eds., Framing Disease: Studies in Cultural History, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1992), pp. 248-70. Reprinted in Hospital Practice, 27, no. 9A (September 4, 1992): 65-108.

"Stigma and Epilepsy," Transactions and Studies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, Ser. 5, Vol. 13, no. 4 (1991): pp. 387-410.