Tag Archives: Nazi

CBHM/BCHM Special Issue: “Probing the Limits of Method in the Neurosciences”

A special issue of the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History/Bulletin canadien d’histoire de la médecine dedicated to “Probing the Limits of Method in the Neurosciences” is now online. The issue includes articles that explore the work of Wilder Penfield, the discovery of mirror neurons, the formation of a global community of neuroscientists in the twentieth century, and much more. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Probing the Limits of Method in the Neurosciences,”by Frank W. Stahnisch.

“Between Clinic and Experiment: Wilder Penfield’s Stimulation Reports and the Search for Mind, 1929–55,” by Katja Guenther. The abstract reads,

In medicine, the realm of the clinic and the realm of experimentation often overlap and conflict, and physicians have to develop practices to negotiate their differences. The work of Canadian neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield (1891–1976) is a case in point. Engaging closely with the nearly 5,000 pages of unpublished and hitherto unconsidered reports of electrical cortical stimulation that Penfield compiled between 1929 and 1955, I trace how Penfield’s interest shifted from the production of hospital-based records designed to help him navigate the brains of individual patients to the construction of universal brain maps to aid his search for an ever-elusive “mind.” Reading the developments of Penfield’s operation records over time, I examine the particular ways in which Penfield straddled the individual and the universal while attempting to align his clinical and scientific interests, thereby exposing his techniques to standardize and normalize his brain maps.

Souvent en médecine, les domaines de la clinique et de l’expérimentation coïncident et s’opposent simultanément, obligeant les médecins à développer des pratiques pour négocier leurs différences. Le travail du neurochirurgien canadien Wilder Penfield (1891–1976) en est un bon exemple. En analysant soigneusement les quelque 5000 pages de protocoles de stimulations corticales électriques non publiés (et jusqu’ici non considérés) que Penfield a compilés entre 1929 et 1955, j’explique comment son intérêt s’est transformé ; de la production de comptes rendus d’opération et de graphiques l’aidant à naviguer dans les cerveaux des patients individuels, à la construction de cartes cérébrales universelles et à la recherche d’un « esprit » insaisissable. En lisant les développements des comptes rendus d’opération au fils du temps, je montre comment Penfield a conçu les techniques pour standardiser et normaliser ses cartes de cerveau, et j’examine la manière particulière avec laquelle il a réconcilié l’individuel et l’universel tout en essayant de mettre en accord ses intérêts cliniques et scientifiques.

“The Currency of Consciousness: Neurology, Specialization, and the Global Practices of Medicine,” by Stephen T. Casper. The abstract reads, Continue reading CBHM/BCHM Special Issue: “Probing the Limits of Method in the Neurosciences”

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APA Monitor Time Capsule: “Psychologist of the Nazi Mind”

Gustave Gilbert

The May 2016 issue of the American Psychological Association‘s Monitor on Psychology features a piece on Gustave Gilbert’s  role as “prison psychologist” during the Nuremberg Nazi war crimes trial. As Ian Nicholson writes,

On Oct. 20, 1945, Gustave Gilbert arrived in Nuremberg, Germany, to begin what was perhaps the most compelling assignment ever given to an American psychologist — working for the International Military Tribunal at the first Nazi war crimes trial. Fluent in German, Gilbert was given the assignment to work as a morale officer and translator. Nuremberg was a high-stakes affair, and the Allied powers wanted the trial to proceed in an orderly and dignified manner. Gilbert’s job was to keep the prisoners — Hitler’s leading henchmen — in a reasonably calm, rational state.

With the approval of his superiors, he quickly recast the position as “prison psychologist” and began studying the prisoners as well. Gilbert used all the standard psychological tools of the day — intelligence tests, Rorschach and Thematic Apperception tests. However, his preferred method was casual conversation. Gilbert befriended the prisoners, visiting them in their cells daily and chatting with them at meal times. At the end of each day, he wrote about these conversations, providing a fascinating window into the thoughts and motivations of the prisoners as they faced what they all knew was a likely death sentence.

Read the rest of the piece online here.

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New Articles: 19th Cure Rates for Insanity & Constitutional Therapy in Nazi Germany

The April issue of Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences includes two articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

““The Glamour of Arabic Numbers”: Pliny Earle’s Challenge to Nineteenth-Century Psychiatry,” by Lawrence Goodheart. The abstract reads,

A well-established interpretation associates the nineteenth-century psychiatrist Pliny Earle’s deflation of high cure rates for insanity with the onset of a persistent malaise in patient treatment and public health policy during the Gilded Age. This essay comes not to praise Earle but to correct and clarify interpretations, however well intentioned, that are incomplete and inaccurate. Several points are made: the overwhelming influence of antebellum enthusiasm on astonishing therapeutic claims; the interrogation of high “recovery” rates begun decades before Earle’s ultimate provocation; and, however disruptive, the heuristically essential contribution of Earle’s challenge to furthering a meaningful model of mental disorder. In spite of the impression created by existing historiography, Earle, a principled Quaker, remained committed to “moral treatment.”

“Constitutional Therapy and Clinical Racial Hygiene in Weimar and Nazi Germany,” by Michael Hau. The abstract reads,

The paper examines the history of constitutional therapy in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Focusing on Walther Jaensch’s “Institute for Constitutional Research” at the Charité in Berlin, it shows how an entrepreneurial scientist successfully negotiated the changing social and political landscape of two very different political regimes and mobilized considerable public and private resources for his projects. During the Weimar period, his work received funding from various state agencies as well as the Rockefeller foundation, because it fit well with contemporary approaches in public hygiene and social medicine that emphasized the need to restore the physical and mental health of children and youths. Jaensch successfully positioned himself as a researcher on the verge of developing new therapies for feeble-minded people, who threatened to become an intolerable burden on the Weimar welfare state. During the Nazi period, he successfully reinvented himself as a racial hygienist by convincing influential medical leaders that his ideas were a valuable complement to the negative eugenics of Nazi bio-politics. “Constitutional therapy,” he claimed, could turn genetically healthy people with “inhibited mental development” (geistigen Entwicklungshemmungen) into fully productive citizens and therefore made a valuable contribution to Nazi performance medicine (Leistungsmedizin) with its emphasis on productivity.

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Max Wertheimer in Frankfurt

I just ran across this blog post by Peter Melzer about the life of Max Wertheimer, and the application of his Gestalt ideas to physical chemistry.

Melzer notes that Frankfurt am Main, where Wertheimer was a professor, “had been a free city ever since Charlemagne’s rule and has always been a free-spirited place that had comparably friendly relations with its Jewish community before the Nazis came to power.” Wertheimer was Jewish and left Germany for New York soon after the Nazi’s assumed power in 1933. Frankfurt’s free character was maintained even during the Nazi years. According the Melzer:

Three years after the Wertheimers had left, der Fuehrer paid the City an official visit. A rally was to be held in the largest in-door venue (die Festhalle) on the City’s fairgrounds. Continue reading Max Wertheimer in Frankfurt

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