Jonas Robitscher papers, 1966-2001

Emory University

Emory Law Archives

Hugh F. MacMillan Law Library

1301 Clifton Road

Atlanta, GA 30322


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Descriptive Summary

Creator: Robitscher, Jonas B.
Title: Jonas Robitscher papers, 1966-2001
Call Number:L-038
Extent: 11.4 linear ft. (29 boxes)
Abstract:Contains Jonas Robitscher's professional papers from 1967-1981 as well as correspondence, photographs, and audiovisual material.
Language:Materials in English and French.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Unrestricted access.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Custodial History

A portion of the collection was received from the Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library in March 2014.


[after identification of item(s)], Jonas Robitscher Papers, Emory Law Archives, Hugh F. MacMillan Law Library, Emory University.


Processed by Clayton McGahee, 2013.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

Jonas Robitscher, J.D., M.D. (1920-1981), lawyer, professor of law, and psychiatrist. Born October 28, 1920 in New York City, Robitscher received his A.B. from Brown University in 1942 where he was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa academic honor society. After working as a Washington Bureau reporter for the Wall Street Journal (1944-46), Robitscher enrolled at George Washington University where he graduated from both the School of Law (1948) and the School of Medicine (1955). During this time Robitscher was an attorney for the Federal Trade Commission (1948-51). His medical training began in 1955 when he served as an intern at the George Washington University Hospital, afterwards beginning his residency in psychiatry at the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia (1956-59). It was during this time as the consulting psychiatrist at Graterford Prison when Robitscher saw firsthand the influence a psychiatrist held in the criminal field, how one poor psychiatric evaluation could dictate the number of years a patient would spend at a mental institution.

Among his many professional accomplishments, Robitscher became a lecturer in law and psychiatry at Villanova University and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, where he directed a program on social-legal uses of forensic psychiatry for the National Institute of Health. Then from 1971 to 1981, Robitscher was the Henry R. Luce Professor of Law and the Behavioral Sciences at Emory, serving on the faculty departments of both the law and medical schools. In this role, he was able to pursue the academic questions that remained unanswered within forensic law. His founding of the Annual Interdisciplinary Symposium in Law and the Behavioral Sciences brought scholars, doctors, lawyers, and social scientists together, dealing with topics such as the rights of mental patients and the rights of children.

In addition to numerous professional positions and affiliations, Robitscher published over eighty articles and three books, with a fourth book unfinished at the time of his death. The topics of his extensive collection of writings range from medical ethics, sterilization, abortion, and right to treatment, to forensic psychiatry topics including criminal responsibility, psychiatric testimony, psychiatry conditions in correctional facilities, among many others. His most controversial work was his book titled The Powers of Psychiatry where Robitscher critiqued the abuses of psychiatry and how the psychiatric community long held unconstrained powers over numerous areas of human conduct. Published by Houghton Mifflin in 1980, this work represents the culmination of Robitscher’s life work as a pioneer in forensic psychiatry.

Jonas Robitscher died of cancer in 1981 at his home in Atlanta.

Scope and Content Note

The Jonas Robitscher Papers consists primarily of his professional papers from 1967 to 1981, including two separate drafts of his most recognized work The Powers of Psychiatry, typescript drafts of "The Uses and Abuses of Psychiatry" and "Abraham Lincoln," numerous papers, lectures, articles written by Robitscher, and other publications both written by and about Jonas Robitscher. Other materials include personal and professional correspondence, promotional material related to Robitscher's work, papers from the Robitscher Society, photographs of Robitscher and his family, and audiovisual material.

Arrangement Note

Organized into the following series: (1) Writings, (2) Publications, (3) Correspondence, (4) Photographs, (5) Collected works, (6) Conferences and other papers, and (7) Audiovisual material.

Description of Series