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Burston, D. (1995). R. D. Laing a Biography by Adrian Charles Laing London: Peter Owen, 1994, 248 pp., £25. Psa. Books, 6(4):527-532.

(1995). Psychoanalytic Books, 6(4):527-532

R. D. Laing a Biography by Adrian Charles Laing London: Peter Owen, 1994, 248 pp., £25

Review by:
Daniel Burston, Ph.D.

Ronald David Laing was born on October 7, 1927, in Glasgow. He was the only child of a quiet Presbyterian couple, and was educated at Cuthbertson Street Primary School, Hutcheson's Boys Grammar School, and the Ommer Academy of Music, where he studied piano with one of Glasgow's leading teachers, Julia Ommer. At 14, he realized that he wished to be a world famous writer, to “make a contribution” when he grew up. Accordingly, he read everything in the local library from A to Z, which is how he first encountered Freud, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Marx, and Nietzsche.

At 17, Laing enrolled at The University of Glasgow Medical School, where he graduated in 1951. After a year at the Glasgow and Western Neurosurgical Unit, Killearn, Laing worked as an Army psychiatrist. It was then that he met and married his first wife, Anne Hearne, with whom he had five children. After demobilization, he went to the Royal Gartnavel Hospital and Southern General Hospital, where he worked under Dr. Ferguson Rodger. Rodger brought Laing to the attention of Dr. J. D. Sutherland, who was Director of the Tavistock Clinic in London. With the help of Sutherland, Dr. John Bowlby, and Dr. Charles Rycroft, Laing came to London in 1956 to train as a psychoanalyst. During his analysis with Rycroft, he worked as the Registrar of the Adult Services Section at the Tavistock Clinic, and completed his first book, The Divided Self (Laing, 1960). There, and in subsequent volumes, Laing denounced the natural science approach to psychology, and reproached Freud, in particular, for aligning himself with this orientation to insure a measure of respectability for psychoanalysis.

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