Collection VF06265 - Robins, Lee N., Vertical File


Reference code


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Robins, Lee N., Vertical File



0.02 Linear Feet

Name of creator


Biographical history

Lee Robins was born Fannie Lee Nelken in New Orleans. She earned a Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University's Radcliffe College in 1951 after training in the 1940s under Talcott Parsons. During grad school at Harvard, she met and married Eli Robins, one of the leaders of the new biological psychiatry who joined the faculty of Washington University School of Medicine in 1949.

Robins joined the faculty of Washington University School of Medicine in 1954 as research assistant in psychiatry and by 1966 had risen to full research professor of sociology in psychiatry. From 1987-1997, she led the master's program in psychiatric epidemiology at the School of Medicine. She was also professor of sociolgy on the Danforth campus. A prolific writer, she authored almost 250 papers and enjoyed nearly continuous grant funding throughout her career. She was the recipient of nearly 30 awards including top honors in the fields of addiction, criminology and public health.

Her first major study in the middle 1950s was a long term follow-up of children and adolescents treated in the Saint Louis Child Guidance Clinic. She and psychiatrist Patricia O"Neal saved the clinic's patient records from destruction and together they located 95% or 524 men seen at the clinic as children from 1924-1929 along with 100 controls from the same neighborhood. The resulting book, Deviant children grown up, helped move behavioral science from speculation based on anecdote into empirical science based on objective patient records.

The Nixon White House selected her as principal investigator on a report on heroin and narcotics use and addiction among Vietnam veterans in the early 1970s. She followed a large random sample of returning soldiers. She found drug use and addiction remained constant at about 1% and that 'most of the kids who used heroin in Vietnam, ...came home, didn't use it anymore and had no problems.'

Late in the 1970s, Robins and her colleagues in the Department of Psychiatry developed the Renard Diagnostic Interview, a assessment tool based on the Feighner psychiatric criteria. Darrell Regier of the National Institute of Mental Health asked her to develop a similar structured interview for the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Surveys (ECA) based on the DSM-III criteria. The result was the Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS). The goal of the ECA was to assess the mental health of large population samples and the very structured DIS allowed trained non-clinicians to do the interviews effectively. St. Louis was selected as one of five interview sites. The high visibility of the ECA study encouraged epidemiologists world wide to replicate ECA in their own countries. These replications allowed more precise cross-national comparisons and encouraged Robins and others to develop the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI).

*Source: Helzer, John, "Lee Nelken Robins: 29 August 1922-25 September 2009," Addiction, Volume 105, Issue 10, pages 1856-1858 (October 2010).

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The Vertical File Collection is open and accessible for research.

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Users of the collection should read and abide by the Rights and Permissions guidelines at the Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives.

Users of the collection who wish to cite items from this collection, in whole or in part, in any form of publication must request, sign, and return a Statement of Use form to the Archives.

For detailed information regarding use of this collection, contact the Archives and Rare Book Department of the Becker Library (

Preferred Citation:

Item description, Reference Code, Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives, Washington University in St. Louis.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

  • Latin

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Related archival materials

See also Mildred Trotter Lectureship files; See also Robins, Eli, "Eli and Lee Robins," 1973.

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"Describing Archives: A Content Standard, Second Edition (DACS), 2013."

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© Copyright 2019 Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives. All rights reserved.

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