Tag Archives: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C

New Article: The Pasteur Institute and the Study of the Animal Mind

Marion Thomas

The February 22016 issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences includes an article that may be of interest to AHP readers.

“Between biomedical and psychological experiments: The unexpected connections between the Pasteur Institutes and the study of animal mind in the second quarter of the twentieth century France,” by Marion Thomas. The abstract reads,

This article explores the unexpected connections between the Pasteur Institute in French Guinea and the study of animal mind in early twentieth century France. At a time when the study of animal intelligence was thriving in France and elsewhere, apes were appealing research subjects both in psychological and biomedical studies. Drawing on two case studies (Guillaume/Meyerson and Urbain), and then, on someone responding negatively to those connections, Thétard, this article shows how the long reach of biomedicine (linked to the prestige of Bernard and Pasteur) impinged on French biology and played a role in the tortuous, if not unsuccessful fate of animal psychology in France in the second quarter of the twentieth century. It shows how attempts to use apes (and other zoo animals) to yield new insights on animal psychology faced heavy restrictions or experienced false starts, and examines the reasons why animal psychology could not properly thrive at that time in France. Beyond the supremacy of biomedical interests over psychological ones, this article additionally explains that some individuals used animal behaviour studies as steppingstones in careers in which they proceeded on to other topics. Finally, it illustrates the tension between non-academic and academic people at a time when animal psychology was trying to acquire scientific legitimacy, and also highlights the difficulties attached to the scientific study of animals in a multipurpose and hybrid environment such as the early twentieth century Parisian zoo and also the Pasteur Institute of French Guinea.

Share on Facebook