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Alexander "Alec" H. Leighton (July 17, 1908 – August 11, 2007) was a sociologist and psychiatrist of dual citizenship (United States, by birth, and Canada, since 1975). He is best known for his work on the Stirling County (Canada) Study and his contributions to the field of psychiatric epidemiology. He died at the age of 99 at his home in Digby, Nova Scotia, surrounded by his devoted wife and partner, Dr. Jane Murphy, and their family.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he received a B.A. degree from Princeton University in 1932, an M.S. from Cambridge University in England in 1934, and an M.D. from Johns Hopkins Medical School in 1936. In 1945 and 1947 he was awarded Guggenheim Fellowships. From 1946 to 1966 he was full professor in the Cornell University Department of Sociology and Anthropology. During this time he also taught at the School of Labor and Industrial Relations and at the Cornell Medical School in New York. He left Cornell to work at the Harvard School of Public Health, where he was Professor of Social Psychiatry and Head of the Department of Behavioral Sciences until 1975. He left Harvard to become the Canadian National Health Scientist in the Department of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he stayed for 10 years. As of 1999, he has been Professor Emeritus, Harvard University, and Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and of Community Health and Epidemiology, Dalhousie University.

In 1948, he initiated and carried out (later joined by his wife, Jane Murphy) the Stirling County Study (still in effect today), which studies the distribution of clinical depression and anxiety disorders in a general population in several areas over the world. In 2003 a day long conference, the Leighton Symposium, was held by the Canadian Anthropology Society in honor of Leighton and his wife's scientific contributions to the field of psychiatric epidemiology.[1]

He has served on advisory committees for the governments of Canada and the United States and for the World Health Organization. In 1975 he was honored with the National Health Scientist Award from Health and Welfare Canada. He is also a recipient of a Rema Lapouse Award from the American Public Health Association's Mental Health, Epidemiology, and Statistics Sections, a McAlpin Mental Health Research Achievement Award from the National Mental Health Association, and a Joseph Zubin Award from the American Psychopathological Association.


  • "The Governing of Men" (1945: ISBN 0691086079, 1968: ISBN 0691024510) (online review), a social science book based on his work in a Japanese relocation center at Poston, Arizona
    After 15 months at Arizona's vast Poston Relocation Center as a social analyst, Commander Leighton concluded that many an American simply fails to remember that U.S. Japanese are human beings.[2]
  • "Human Relations in a Changing World: Observations on the Uses of the Social Sciences" (1949)
  • "My Name is Legion. Foundations for a Theory of Man in Relation to Culture" (1959) (online review), on effects of sociocultural factors on personality and psychiatric disorders
  • "Further Explorations in Social Psychiatry" (editor, with Berton H. Kaplan) (1976 ISBN 0465025897), about etiological components of psychiatric disorders
  • "Caring for Mentally Ill People: Psychological and Social Barriers in Historical Context" (1982, ISBN 0521234158)
  • "Approaches to cross-cultural psychiatry" (with Jane M. Murphy) (1965)
  • "Come Near" (1971, ISBN 0393086178), a novel


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Japs Are Human" Time Magazine, June 25, 1945

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