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.

NY Post Confuses Centuries

An Editorial Comment.

The New York Post is the 13th oldest newspaper in circulation in the United States, dating back to 1801. Under the ownership of Rupert Murdoch, the paper has taken a tabloid-style approach with sensationalist headlines such as their well-known cover: “Headless Body in Topless Bar.” Over the years the paper has received harsh criticism over various headlines, photos, or articles and has been the subject of several boycotts but it has also grown to be the 6th largest newspaper in the United States by circulation numbers.

Yesterday the NY Post ran an update about the trial of Steven Maynard, a man who was standing trial for causing $200,000 in damage to trees in Crown Heights and Prospect Park. The Supreme Court has ruled that Maynard is unfit to stand trial. He has been sent for treatment at a psychiatric hospital and will be re-evaluated in one years time. The NY Post’s reporting on this story included referring to Maynard as a “madman” being sent to a “madhouse“. Earlier this summer, the NY Post called him a “nut case” and explained that he was “too cuckoo to stand trial“.

And people wonder why stigma persists.

Syllabi on Madness, Mental Illness, and Psychiatry

The blog H-madness has been posting the syllabi for courses related to madness, mental illness, and psychiatry for the past week or so now. As of today there are 12 syllabi available on their site from professors around the globe. The postings include not only a copy of the syllabus from each course but also some background information about the research interests of the particular professor and how the course came to be developed.

The courses range in focus from survey courses on the history of madness to the history of patients/consumers/survivors to the history of asylums to courses that combine the histories of psychiatry and psychology.

British History Search Engine Coming

Attention historians of pre-20th century British psychology and related topics: the Connected Histories Project is currently in the process of creating a search engine that is specific to British history. The search engine will also link together several databases that are already in existence, including:

  • Old Bailey Proceedings Online: An online collection of 197,745 criminal trials that were held at the Central Criminal Court in London between 1674-1913.
  • Burney Newspaper collection: National, regional, and local British newspapers from the British Library’s collection dating to the 17th-19th centuries.
  • British History Online: A searchable online resource created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust.

And this is but a “taste” of what the new database will offer. According to the Connected Histories website:

Continue reading British History Search Engine Coming

History Live: H.M.’s Brain Under Study

History is currently streaming live over the internet via The Brain Observatory in San Diego, CA. The brain of H.M. (Henry Molaison), one of psychology’s most famous amnesic patients, has been frozen to -40C and is being sectioned over a 30 hour period lasting into tomorrow (December 4, 2009). You can watch the procedure live via their website. According to The Brain Observatory:

The procedure will mark the completion of Phase 1 of the project which will include ex vivo MR-imaging, blockface imaging, tissue slicing and cryogenic storage of all histological sections.

H.M. passed away just over 1 year ago.

AHP thanks Kathleen W. Smith at York University for bringing this story to our attention.

Friday Fun

As another week comes to an end, a “lighter” post seems appropriate on a Friday:

You may have come across images of knitted brains in your inboxes, but did you know that there exists a Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art?

The website boasts that it holds “the world’s largest collection of anatomically correct fabric brain art”. The collection features “a rug based on fMRI imaging, a knitted brain from dissection, and three quilts with functional images from PET”.


APA turning its back on history

The American Psychological Association (APA)’s 117th annual convention wrapped up yesterday in Toronto, Canada. The Society for the History of Psychology (SHP), APA’s Division 26, put on a full and engaging program of 39 sessions over the four days which culminated with APA Council bestowing upon Dr. Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. a presidential citation in recognition of his contributions to the discipline. But a decision by APA council just before noon on Sunday would put a damper on the mood of the whole event: they have decided to cut their annual contribution to the Archives for the History of American Psychology (AHAP) from $60,000 annually to $30,000 this year and $20,000 next year. This decision was made against the recommendations by many on council who stood to speak up against such a significant budget cut to an archives that counts among its collection the papers of many past APA presidents and APA divisions.

These actions by the APA are extremely disappointing. I would go so far as to say that from the point of view of a graduate student in the history of psychology, they are discouraging. AHAP is the only archives dedicated to psychology in North America and serves as a valuable resource to all who are interested in the discipline’s history. I contacted David Baker, director of AHAP, who replied that “It is indeed disappointing that the Executive Management Group and the Board of Directors fail to see the value of our shared past.”

I hope you will join me in (1) writing to APA Council of Representatives in protest of this decision and (2) donating to AHAP to show our support of the work they do for the discipline.

More History of Psychology on Flickr

Following up on yesterday’s post regarding the “discovery” of the only known image of Phineas Gage on the online photo site Flickr:

Jack and Beverly Wilgus, the owners of the Gage photo, have a number of other Psychology-related items in their online album: “Flint the Mesmerist” and his hynotized daughter (the Wilgus’ also host a Flint the Mesmerist website complete with links to posters you can be – see poster 1 and poster 2), a couple of images of phrenology heads (image 1, image 2), and a physniotrace with explanation of the photographic process (which is particularly interesting in relation to Objectivity and its descriptions of various imaging technologies).

Of course, there are a vast number of history of psychology related images both on Flickr and other online image databases. For instance, as AHP announced earlier this year, the Archives for the History of American Psychology continues to post images of their apparatus collection, media collection, books and manuscripts collection, events at the archives, and images taking you inside the archives.

Here’s a selection of other “Psychology on Flickr” images you might enjoy on a Friday afternoon:

Continue reading More History of Psychology on Flickr

Face of Phineas Gage Revealed

Almost a full century and a half after his death, the face of one of the most famous cases in Psychology’s history has been revealed. As the well-known story goes, Phineas Gage was a railway worker who survived having a tamping iron that was 3.8 feet in length enter under his left eye and exit from the back of his skull in 1848 (for more info, see here). Until now, our only “image” of Gage has been his skull and the infamous tamping iron (pictured right).

It turns out Gage’s image has been right under our noses in the collection of Jack and Beverly Wilgus, photograph collectors from Maryland. As the two describe on their recently launched website, “Meet Phineas Gage“, the image has been in their collection for 30 years but had been identified as a whaler holding a harpoon – until a comment on the online photo site Flicr questionned the accuracy of the caption. As the Wilgus’ explain:

Continue reading Face of Phineas Gage Revealed

Making Visible Embryos

Another visually interesting website that may be of interest to AHP readers: Making Visible Embryos. The site consists of historical images related to human development arranged in eight sections: Unborn, Development, Learning, Evolution, Remodelling, Standards, Monitoring, and Intervention. Though the site covers a variety of related issues, focus is on imaging technologies and the people responsible for making embryos visible.

Thanks to HT student (YorkU) and History & Theory of Psychology Student Network webmaster, Jacy Young, for bringing this one to our attention.