He was a graduate in Arts and Science of Edinburgh University and later studied in Germany under Neumann whose teaching influenced him greatly, and gave direction to his subsequent career. His period of teaching and research in the department of Professor Whipple at Cornell University increased his interest in Experimental Psychology, and in the general problem of deficiencies in learning. His insight into the needs of the backward and the mentally handicapped, and his deep concern for their welfare, brought him to the forefront in all movements to secure amelioration of their lot.
From his lectureship in Education in Edinburgh University and in Moray House, Mr Kennedy-Fraser transferred to Glasgow in 1923 to become the first Psychologist to a Local Education Authority with duties directly concerned with the assessment and diagnosis of mental retardation in pupils of school age. He held this post jointly with his appointment to Jordanhill Training College as Lecturer in Psychology, responsible for the training of teachers of the mentally handicapped. The course of training which he inaugurated and developed until his retiral was the first of its kind in the United Kingdom and, throughout the years of his guidance, attracted students from all parts of Scotland, from England, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and the United States. His books, The Psychology of Education and The Education of the Backward Child, were for many years standard texts.
David Kennedy-Fraser became widely known as the apostle of the handicapped, and spent himself untiringly in their service. He was an enthusiastic and stimulating lecturer, approachable at all times, helpful and encouraging. His buoyancy and cheerfulness made him a welcome visitor in the many schools for handicapped children to which he gave guidance, and won for him a secure place in the affections of his students.
His close association with the Scottish Association for Mental Health was continued after his retiral in widespread, indefatigable service to its branches throughout Scotland.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1929. He was also a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and of the Educational Institute of Scotland. He is survived by his wife and three daughters.