All posts by Jennifer Bazar

About Jennifer Bazar

Jennifer Bazar is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care. Her research focuses on the history of psychiatric institutionalization.

Adler’s Remains Found!

In 1937 psychoanalyst Alfred Adler passed away in Aberdeen, Scotland while on a lecture tour at the university. Adler had been a member of Freud’s inner circle in Vienna until they split in 1911 and is remembered for his development of the theory of the inferiority complex.

His passing came at a time when Europe was on the brink of the Second World War and his family lost track of his remains. Seventy-four years later, The Guardian has reported that Adler’s ashes have been sitting in a crematorium in Edinburgh all this time. They were discovered by John Clifford, the honorary Austrian consul to Scotland, who had been asked to find them by the Society for Individual Psychology, a group originally founded by Adler himself.

Later this month, Adler’s ashes will be returned to Vienna through a civic ceremony.

**Thanks to Kelli Vaughn for bringing this story to the attention of AHP**

Update on the Coca-Cola Trial Anniversary

An update on yesterday’s post regarding the anniversary of Harry Hollingworth’s caffeine research and the 1911 Coca-Cola trials:

For AHP readers wanting more information: the 2010 article, “Coca-Cola – Brain tonic or poison?“, in The Psychologist by Ludy Benjamin of Texas A&M University is freely available online through the British Psychological Society. Benjamin details The United States Government vs. Forty Barrels, Twenty Kegs Coca-Cola trial including Hollingworth’s research on caffeine consumption and the aftermath of the trial’s dismissal.

Caffeine levels still hot topic 100 years later

One hundred years (this month) have passed since the famous Coca-Cola trials – and the discussions of the effect of caffeine levels on health are still ongoing. Yesterday the New York Times published an article highlighting this link between the contemporary debates surrounding energy drinks and the anniversary of the 1911caffeine trail.

The 1911 trial, which took place in Chattanooga, Tennesse, focused on whether or not the 80 milligrams of caffeine in Coca-Cola were harmful to humans (the New York Times article points out that this amount equates to the caffeine content found in Red Bull drinks today).

To mount their defense, Coca-Cola hired psychologist Harry Hollingworth to test the mental and motor skills of individuals at varying levels of caffeine consumption. Hollingworth studied 16 participants of varying caffeine habits and testified that moderate doses of caffeine stimulated performance while sleep was affected by some at the higher dose level.

However, the jury was not given a chance to deliberate with the trial ending in dismissal. No decision was therefore rendered regarding safe levels of caffeine.

Although the article links the 1911 caffeine levels in Coca-Cola to current-day levels in energy drinks, it does not address the fact that contemporary Coca-Cola contains less than half the original amount. Their website lists the following caffeine amounts:

  • Coca-Cola Classic: 23 milligrams (per 240mL or 8 fl oz)
  • Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero: 23-31 milligrams (per 240 mL or 8 fl oz)

Coca-Cola has continued to focus on the research between caffeine and health – its website features a number of articles on this topic (caffeine & health; caffeine & bone health; caffeine & dehydration).

I also found it interesting that the history portion of the Coca-Cola website does not acknowledge the trial, instead focusing on the emergence of similar products between 1905-1918.

Thanks to Cathy Faye for bringing this article to the attention of AHP!

Online Resource: Profiling Hitler

I just came across some interesting history resources available on the website related to the psychoanalysis of Adolf Hitler. The profile was constructed by Walter Langer and his team in just five months. Without access to the man himself, interviews were conducted with individuals who knew Hitler personally and 1000+ pages from the so-called Hitler Source Book were consulted.

The site has added a short write-up of the Office of Strategic Services’ (OSS) 1943 project to construct a psychological profile of the Nazi leader, embedded video of the BBC documentary: Inside the Mind of Adolf Hitler (in five parts), and a link to the text of Walter Langer’s original text that is available for Kindle.

Langer was, of course, not the only psychologist recruited by the OSS to compile a profile of Hitler: Harvard psychologist Henry Murray prepared a similar report a year earlier in 1943. A write-up focusing on Murray’s project by Martyn Housden of the University of Bradford is available in pdf here.

New Resource for History of Psychoanalysis

The Wellcome Library has launched a new online resource on the history of psychoanalysis:  Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing (PEP). The site is an online archival database of 42 psychoanalytic journals and 58 classic texts in psychoanalysis. Texts dating between 1871 and 2007 are available in full.

The database has been a collaborative effort between the American Psychoanalytic Association and the Institute of Psychoanalysis.

[Thanks are due to the @WellcomeLibrary twitter feed for the announcement]

Recreating History: Victorian Pharmacy

I have spent the past month enthralled with my Monday night TV options: TVO (the public television channel in Ontario) has been airing the 4-part series “Victorian Pharmacy” that originally aired on the BBC this past summer.

The series is an historical documentary that traces the history of the pharmacy through the Victorian era (each episode is set at a progressively later date). Set at Blists Hill Victorian Town in Shropshire, it stars domestic historian Ruth Goodman, professor at the School of Pharmacy Nick Barber, and PhD student Tom Quick. Dr. Goodman has participated in several similar projects including Tales from the Green Valley (everyday life on a farm in Wales, circa 1620), Edwardian Farm, Victorian Farm, and Victorian Farm Christmas.

A quick synopsis: In episode one, set in 1837, the group explored some early treatments: including the use of leeches, an oil compound made of earthworm, the bronchial kettle, and the discovery of Indian tonic water. Episode two progressed to the mid-nineteenth century and explored “cure-alls” and disinfectants. Episode three faced the new regulations that were established for pharmacists in 1868 and portrayed the cast taking the examinations (which included the practical test of creating a suppository) – they also discussed the loophole in the legislation that allowed women to emerge in the developing field of pharmaceuticals. Finally, episode four, set at the end of the Victorian era, featured new techniques in dentistry (including a foot-pedal drill), the creation of condoms out of sheep intestines, and the latest developments in photography. What made Victorian Pharmacy so engaging, to me at least, was not only the discussion of various developments in the history of the pharmacy and medical treatments, but that the cast prepared and tried out these treatments.

I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to recreate psychology’s early labs – perhaps looking first to Wilhelm Wundt’s lab and then moving to the United States to compare how their labs were both similar and different. We may not have an open air museum like Blists Hill to draw on, but there is still a fair amount of apparatus hanging around from the “Brass & Glass” era with enough photos to help recreate what the labs would have looked like…..

If you missed the original broadcast of Victorian Pharmacy on the BBC or the re-airing on TVO, the episodes are available on TVO’s website: Episode OneEpisode TwoEpisode ThreeEpisode Four.

HSS winds down

Report from the Conference

It was another great day at the History of Science Society conference. The day included a great presentation by Arlie Belliveau (York University) in which she looked at the micromotion films of the Gilbreths as a translation device for enabling communication between engineering Taylorists and psychologist industrial managers. And of course, no Gilbreth presentation would be complete without some great video (Belliveau showed footage from the Ball Brothers Mason Jar Factory in 1918 but I could only find bricklaying footage to share here)

There was also a Darwin session chaired by Bob Richards (University of Chicago) which featured a number of interesting talks. Personally I was particularly interested in Kathryn Tabb’s (University of Pittsburg) discussion of the influence of Darwin’s interest in insanity on the development of his later theory. She focused on the period between 1837-1839, drawing heavily from Darwin’s notebook M and notebook N.

That wrapped up the last full day of the HSS conference (Ah Montréal, tu me manques déjà!) – next year’s meeting will be held in Cleveland, Ohio.

HSS in Montreal

Report from the Conference

The annual meeting of the History of Science Society has returned to Canada, meeting this year in Montreal, Quebec. The conference attracts an international crowd of presenters and attendees who come to discuss a wide spectrum of topics within the history of science. This year the group is meeting in conjunction with the Philosophy of Science Association.

Tonight’s evening session was certainly one of the highlights of the first full day of programming: “Psychology in the 20th Century” ran during the 7:30-9:30pm time slot. Jeremy Blatter (Harvard University) opened the session with a discussion of Hugo Munsterberg’s use of film as a venue to promote and popularize psychology. The presentation included a clip that illustrated what participants would have seen in some early psychological research that used film. Blatter also mentioned an extension of the project for which he is recreating the psycological test films that Munsterberg created for Paramount based on the remaining archival material relevant to the project. Next was Brian Casey’s (National Institute of Health) talk on re-emergence of psychosurgery in the 1970s and the relationship between the National Institute of Mental Health and society. Some of the many elements Casey highlighted was how the psychosurgery story showcases how the NIMH weathered the anti-psychiatry movement and their role in civil rights history. Jason Richard Miller (UCLA) discussed Henry Murray’s development of the Thematic Apperception Test and the role he played with the OSS during the war as an aid to recruitment. Finally, Justin Garson (University of Utah) ended the evening with a talk about the physiologist Edgar Adrian, who won the Nobel prize in 1926 for recording the electrical activity of a single neuron, and his use of terms such as “information”, “message”, and “signaling” to describe nerve action. Garson suggested that one of the elements that prompted Adrian to use these communication analogies was earlier research conducted in the field with vacuum tubes.

Continue reading HSS in Montreal

New blog re: Scientific Instruments

I have recently been playing around on Twitter (yes, I’m behind the trends) and generally get generic messages from friends or family about random thoughts or adventures. Today I received something a bit different though, a tweet that read: “Our blog is now active! Check out our first post…” from  @UTSIC or the Twitter account of the University of Toronto Scientific Instrument Collection.

The University of Toronto Scientific Instrument Collection (UTSIC) is a collection of instruments from various scientific fields that have been assembled at the University of Toronto since the late 1970s. The original intention for the collection was to create a museum, a project which has never been realized. Despite this frustration, a dedicated group of volunteers has continued to work towards preserving, growing, and cataloguing the collection. The first post on the group’s new blog provides a history of the collection (the post was also published in Spontaneous Generations, an online peer-reviewed journal for the history and philosophy of science).

I recently had the opportunity to tour the UTSIC and meet one of the group’s members, Erich Weidenhammer (also one of the co-authors of the UTSIC first blog post). The collection is quite diverse ranging from multiple galvonometers to microscopes to scales used to weigh babies to items that have not yet been identified.

AHP readers should note that UTSIC is separately maintained from the Brass Instrument Collection which is also located at the University of Toronto.

Air Crib in APS Observer

The September issue of the APS Observer features an article by Nick Joyce and Cathy Faye of the Archives of the History of American Psychology (AHAP). The article, “Skinner Air Crib“, discusses the development of the air crib by B.F. Skinner in the mid-1940s – a climate controlled environment designed to encourage a child’s development. The article discusses some of the myths and legends surround the use of the crib in the Skinner home and also why it failed to gain more widespread popularity in North America.

But the story of the air crib is bigger than just the Skinner story. In 1939, a Dutch doctor created an air crib in Groningen as an aid to child rearing. The outcome was different than the North American story, with the crib still being manufactured and used in some homes in The Netherlands today. The cribs are called “babyhuisjes” in Dutch which translates roughly to “baby house”. Want to build you own babyhuisjes? See here and here.