Tag Archives: autism

Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna

A new book  on Hans Asperger will interest AHP readers: Asperger’s Children: The Origins of Autism in Nazi Vienna by Edith Sheffer. As described on the publisher’s site:

Hans Asperger, the pioneer of autism and Asperger syndrome in Nazi Vienna, has been celebrated for his compassionate defense of children with disabilities. But in this groundbreaking book, prize-winning historian Edith Sheffer exposes that Asperger was not only involved in the racial policies of Hitler’s Third Reich, he was complicit in the murder of children.

As the Nazi regime slaughtered millions across Europe during World War Two, it sorted people according to race, religion, behavior, and physical condition for either treatment or elimination. Nazi psychiatrists targeted children with different kinds of minds—especially those thought to lack social skills—claiming the Reich had no place for them. Asperger and his colleagues endeavored to mold certain “autistic” children into productive citizens, while transferring others they deemed untreatable to Spiegelgrund, one of the Reich’s deadliest child-killing centers.

In the first comprehensive history of the links between autism and Nazism, Sheffer uncovers how a diagnosis common today emerged from the atrocities of the Third Reich. With vivid storytelling and wide-ranging research, Asperger’s Children will move readers to rethink how societies assess, label, and treat those diagnosed with disabilities.

 

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The Tinbergens on Austism, Ernest Jones in Toronto, and Psychiatry in Medical Education

Forthcoming in the Canadian Bulletin of the History of Medicine are several articles of interest to AHP readers. Details below.

“Ethopathology and Civilization Diseases: Niko and Elisabeth Tinbergen on Autism,” by Marga Vicedo. Abstract:

The idea that some diseases result from a poor fit between modern life and our biological make-up is part of the long history of what historian of medicine Charles Rosenberg has called the “progress-and-pathology narrative.” This article examines a key episode in that history: 1973 Nobel laureate Niko Tinbergen’s use of an evolutionary framework to identify autism as a pathogenic effect of progress. Influenced by British psychiatrist John Bowlby’s work, Tinbergen and his wife Elisabeth saw autistic children as victims of environmental stress caused mainly by mothers’ failure to bond with their children and to protect them from conflicting situations. However, the author argues that their position was not “environmental.” For them, autism was due to a failure of socialization but the mechanisms that explain that failure were established by biological evolution. Situating their views within the context of Niko’s concern about the derailment of biological evolution by cultural evolution, this article shows that their ideas are of special significance for understanding the persistence of the view that civilization poses a risk to human health.

“When Ernest Jones First Arrived in Toronto, or Reappraising the Bruce Letter,” by
Philip Kuhn. Abstract:

In July 1962, Toronto-based surgeon, Herbert Bruce, wrote a private and confidential letter to social worker and historian Cyril Greenland with some memories and impressions of Sigmund Freud’s lifelong friend and biographer, Ernest Jones, in Toronto (1908–1913). In the letter, Bruce described Jones as a ‘sexual pervert’. Despite Bruce’s condemnation of Jones, historians and biographers have largely ignored this controversial aspect of Jones’ impression in Toronto. The article traces how scholars have handled the existence of the Bruce letter, and the consequences for how this history has been understood. In the latter half of the article, the author considers how the existence of this letter offers insights into how the Toronto medical establishment regarded Ernest Jones.

“Psychiatry in American Medical Education: The Case of Harvard’s Medical School, 1900–1945,” by Tara H. Abraham. Abstract:

As American psychiatrists moved from the asylum to the private clinic during the early twentieth century, psychiatry acquired a growing presence within medical school curricula. This shift in disciplinary status took place at a time when medical education itself was experiencing a period of reform. By examining medical school registers at Harvard University, records from the Dean’s office of Harvard’s medical school, and oral histories, this paper examines the rise in prominence of psychiatry in medical education. Three builders of Harvard psychiatry—Elmer E. Southard, C. Macfie Campbell, and Harry C. Solomon—simultaneously sought to mark territory for psychiatry and its relevance, and in doing so, I argue, capitalized on three related elements: the fluidity that existed between psychiatry and neurology, the new venues whereby medical students gained training in psychiatry, and the broader role of patrons, professional associations, and certification boards, which sought to expand psychiatry’s influence in the social and cultural life of twentieth-century America.

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Winter 2018 JHBS: Ida Frye on Autism, Operative Psychology in Germany, and More

The Winter 2018 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences is now available. Articles in this issue explore the Peace Corps in the Philippines, the work of Ida Frye on autism, and “operative psychology” in the German Democratic Republic. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“The creation of a postcolonial subject: The Chicago and Ateneo de Manila schools and the Peace Corps in the Philippines, 1960–1970,” by Christa Wirth. Abstract:

In the 1950s and 1960s scholars from the University of Chicago and the Ateneo de Manila created social scientific knowledge that helped establish the Peace Corps as a Cold War institution in the Philippines. Central were the social scientists at the University of Chicago and the Ateneo de Manila University who established a knowable postcolonial subject: “the Filipino,” which resulted from their research on Philippine values. In this context, the Ateneo/Chicago social scientists developed the “SIR,” the “smooth interpersonal relation” model that entails the notion that Filipinos and Filipinas particularly valued this nonconfrontational skill set among people. The SIR model was taught by social science experts to early Peace Corps volunteers as they prepared for their assignments in the Philippines. The article shows how the SIR model could cause distress and confusion as it was applied by Peace Corps volunteers in the Philippines.

“Rethinking the origins of autism: Ida Frye and the unraveling of children’s inner world in the Netherlands in the late 1930s,” by Annemieke Van Drenth. Abstract: Continue reading Winter 2018 JHBS: Ida Frye on Autism, Operative Psychology in Germany, and More

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HHS Special Issue: Psychotherapy in Historical Perspective

Sarah Marks

The April 2017 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Guest edited by Sarah Marks, this special issue explores “Psychotherapy in Historical Perspective.” Titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Psychotherapy in historical perspective,” by Sarah Marks. Abstract:

This article will briefly explore some of the ways in which the past has been used as a means to talk about psychotherapy as a practice and as a profession, its impact on individuals and society, and the ethical debates at stake. It will show how, despite the multiple and competing claims about psychotherapy’s history and its meanings, historians themselves have, to a large degree, not attended to the intellectual and cultural development of many therapeutic approaches. This absence has the potential consequence of implying that therapies have emerged as value-free techniques, outside of a social, economic and political context. The relative neglect of psychotherapy, by contrast with the attention historians have paid to other professions, particularly psychiatry, has also underplayed its societal impact. This article will foreground some of the instances where psychotherapy has become an object of emerging historical interest, including the new research that forms the substance of this special issue of History of the Human Sciences.

“The action of the imagination: Daniel Hack Tuke and late Victorian psycho-therapeutics,” by Sarah Chaney. Abstract:

Histories of dynamic psychotherapy in the late 19th century have focused on practitioners in continental Europe, and interest in psychological therapies within British asylum psychiatry has been largely overlooked. Yet Daniel Hack Tuke (1827–95) is acknowledged as one of the earliest authors to use the term ‘psycho-therapeutics’, including a chapter on the topic in his 1872 volume, Illustrations of the Influence of the Mind upon the Body in Health and Disease. But what did Tuke mean by this concept, and what impact did his ideas have on the practice of asylum psychiatry? At present, there is little consensus on this topic. Through in-depth examination of what psycho-therapeutics meant to Tuke, this article argues that late-19th-century asylum psychiatry cannot be easily separated into somatic and psychological strands. Tuke’s understanding of psycho-therapeutics was extremely broad, encompassing the entire field of medical practice (not only psychiatry). The universal force that he adopted to explain psychological therapies, ‘the Imagination’, was purported to show the power of the mind over the body, implying that techniques like hypnotism and suggestion might have an effect on any kind of symptom or illness. Acknowledging this aspect of Tuke’s work, I conclude, can help us better understand late-19th-century psychiatry – and medicine more generally – by acknowledging the lack of distinction between psychological and somatic in ‘psychological’ therapies.

“‘Subordination, authority, psychotherapy’: Psychotherapy and politics in inter-war Vienna,” by David Freis. Abstract: Continue reading HHS Special Issue: Psychotherapy in Historical Perspective

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Essay Review: “Putting the Present in the History of Autism”

Now in press at Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences is “Putting the Present in the History of Autism” by Sam Fellowes. In this essay review, Fellowes evaluates the history of autism as presented in two recent books, Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes and John Donvan & Karen Zucker’s In A Different Key.  As Fellowes writes in his introduction,

Recent media reviews of these books have been generally positive and although I highlight the positive elements, my primary focus is on some of the significant problems in these books. Both books have made some historical errors but they seem more problematic in Silberman’s case. Donvan & Zucker largely stick to describing a series of events whereas Silberman weaves specific events into a wider narrative, one which treats the modern classification of autism as correct scientific fact. The only evidence present in Neurotribes for this approach is implicit in Silberman’s history: the classification of autism employed historically used to be deeply flawed so therefore our modern notion is good. I will highlight problematic historical assertions both books make but largely focus upon showing how those errors undermine Silberman’s narrative. This critique gives more credibility to the alternative conceptions of autism he largely dismisses.

The full essay review can be found (behind a paywall) here.

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Steven Shapin on Autism: “Seeing the Spectrum” in The New Yorker

In this week’s issue of The New Yorker historian of science Steven Shapin explores the complicated history of autism in his review of John Donvan and Caren Zucker’s new book In a Different Key: The Story of Autism. As Shapin writes,

The history of how autism was discovered, how the term entered the vocabulary of psychological expertise and also of everyday speech, and how its identity has evolved has been told many times. Chloe Silverman’s 2012 book, “Understanding Autism,” is the most sensitive account by an academic historian, and Steve Silberman’s best-selling work “NeuroTribes” (2015) is a deep history of autism, which ends up as a discussion of how we ought to think about it today. Now comes “In a Different Key: The Story of Autism,” by John Donvan and Caren Zucker (Crown). The authors are journalists, and, like many writers on the subject, they have a personal interest in autism. Donvan has a severely autistic brother-in-law. Zucker’s son has autism, and so does a grandson of Robert MacNeil, a former anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” for which Zucker produced a series of programs on the condition. Appropriately, a major focus of the book is on autism in the family and the changing historical role of parents of autistic children. “In a Different Key” is a story about autism as it has passed through largely American institutions, shaped not only by psychiatrists and psychologists but by parents, schools, politicians, and lawyers. It shows how, in turn, the condition acquired a powerful capacity both to change those institutions and to challenge our notions of what is pathological and what is normal.

The full review can be read online here.

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New Popular Book on the History of Autism

9780307985675ABC news correspondent Jon Donvan and producer Caren Zucker culminate their decade plus of reporting on the topic with a cultural history of autism, In a Different Key. Their narrative is populated with the landmark Cases (Donald T) and renowned researchers (Kanner, Asperger), but also those of the condition’s “pre-history,” phrenologists, mentalists, institutional administrators. The authors’ scope spans the shifting landscape of its social politics, theoretical, diagnostic and management controversies, making a grounded case for neurodiversity-oriented reform.

Here are links to the authors’ various pieces on the project from around the net:

 

 

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New HHS: Psych & Ethnology, Mental Tests in Russia, & More!

The October 2014 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Among the articles included in this issue are ones exploring the relationship between psychology and ethnology, the role of mental tests in Russian child science, and the Psychological Institute of the Republic of South Africa by Wahbie Long (right). Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“On relations between ethnology and psychology in historical context,” by Gustav Jahoda. The abstract reads,

Ever since records began, accounts of other peoples and their institutions and customs have included comments about their mental characteristics. The present article traces this feature from the 18th century to roughly the First World War, with a brief sketch of more recent developments. For most of this period two contrasting positions prevailed: the dominant one attributed human differences to ‘race’, while the other one explained them in terms of psychological, environmental and historical factors. The present account focuses on the latter, among them those who asserted ‘the psychic unity of mankind’. Generally it is shown that from the early period when writings were based almost entirely on secondary sources, to the beginnings of empirical studies, ethnological theories were indissolubly linked to psychological concerns.

“The mental test as a boundary object in early-20th-century Russian child science,” by Andy Byford. The abstract reads, Continue reading New HHS: Psych & Ethnology, Mental Tests in Russia, & More!

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New Issue of History of Psychiatry: DSM, Autism, & Hospital Magazines

The December 2013 issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Included in this issue are articles that explore the magazines produced in Irish psychiatric hospitals, the nature of DSM classification, and the history of autism. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“Søren Kierkegaard (1813–55): a bicentennial pathographical review,” by Johan Schioldann and Ib Søgaard. The abstract reads,

Researchers in the fields of psychology, psychiatry, medicine and theology have made exhaustive efforts to shed light on the elusive biography/pathography of the great Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (1813–55). This ‘bicentennial’ article reviews his main pathographical diagnoses of, respectively, possible manic-depressive [bipolar] disease, epilepsy, complex partial seizure disorder, Landry-Guillain-Barré’s acute ascending paralysis, acute intermittent porphyria with possible psychiatric manifestations, and syphilidophobia.

“Through the lens of the hospital magazine: Downshire and Holywell psychiatric hospitals in the 1960s and 1970s,” by Pauline Prior and Gillian McClelland. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue of History of Psychiatry: DSM, Autism, & Hospital Magazines

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New Issue: History of the Human Sciences

The July 2013 issue of History of the Human Sciences is now online. Included in this issue are articles on the development of the concept of autism in Britain, an interview with Holberg prize winning philosopher Ian Hacking (right), and Adam Smith’s views on animals, among others. Full title, authors, and abstracts follow below.

“How autism became autism: The radical transformation of a central concept of child development in Britain,” by Bonnie Evans. The abstract reads,

This article argues that the meaning of the word ‘autism’ experienced a radical shift in the early 1960s in Britain which was contemporaneous with a growth in epidemiological and statistical studies in child psychiatry. The first part of the article explores how ‘autism’ was used as a category to describe hallucinations and unconscious fantasy life in infants through the work of significant child psychologists and psychoanalysts such as Jean Piaget, Lauretta Bender, Leo Kanner and Elwyn James Anthony. Theories of autism were then associated both with schizophrenia in adults and with psychoanalytic styles of reasoning. The closure of institutions for ‘mental defectives’ and the growth in speech therapy services in the 1960s and 1970s encouraged new models for understanding autism in infants and children. The second half of the article explores how researchers such as Victor Lotter and Michael Rutter used the category of autism to reconceptualize psychological development in infants and children via epidemiological studies. These historical changes have influenced the form and function of later research into autism and related conditions.

“‘I am a philosopher of the particular case’: An interview with the 2009 Holberg prizewinner Ian Hacking,” by Ole Jacob Madsen, Johannes Servan, and Simen Andersen Øyen. The abstract reads, Continue reading New Issue: History of the Human Sciences

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