Category Archives: Journals

New in Isis: Turing’s “Paper Machine” in Clinical Research

The September issue of Isis includes a piece that may interest AHP readers: “A Paper Machine of Clinical Research in the Early Twentieth Century,” by Volker Hess. Abstract:

This article introduces Turing’s idea of a “paper machine” to identify and understand one important mode of clinical research in the modern hospital, how that research worked, and how office technology and industrialized labor shaped and helped drive it. The unusually rich archives of Berlin psychiatry allow detailed reconstruction of the making of the new diagnostic category “hyperkinetic syndrome” in the 1920s. From the generating of data to the processing of information to the visualizing of the nature and course of the new syndrome in the lives of more than sixty patients, this case study shows how clinical research could be based on the apparatus of the clerks’ room (folders, registers, inventories, and the dispatch of documents), office technologies (new filing systems, preprinted forms, and duplicating machines), and the principles and paper practices of the division and rationalization of labor (charts organizing worktime in complex organizations). The result is an important example of clinical research embedded in the broader history of office technology, industrial labor, and the modern hospital.

Diagnosing the Kaiser: Psychiatry, Wilhelm II and the Question of German War Guilt

Kaiser Wilhelm II and Germany 1890–1914 Head and shoulders portrait of the Kaiser by Court Photographer T. H. Voigt of Frankfurt, 1902.

The July 2018 issue of Medical History includes the The William Bynum Prize Essay 2016: “Diagnosing the Kaiser: Psychiatry, Wilhelm II and the Question of German War Guilt,” by David Freis. Abstract:

After his abdication in November 1918, the German emperor Wilhelm II continued to haunt the minds of his people. With the abolition of the lese-majesty laws in the new republic, many topics that were only discussed privately or obliquely before could now be broached openly. One of these topics was the mental state of the exiled Kaiser. Numerous psychiatrists, physicians and laypeople published their diagnoses of Wilhelm in high-circulation newspaper articles, pamphlets, and books shortly after the end of the war. Whether these diagnoses were accurate and whether the Kaiser really was mentally ill became the issue of a heated debate.

This article situates these diagnoses of Wilhelm II in their political context. The authors of these diagnoses – none of whom had met or examined Wilhelm II in person – came from all political camps and they wrote with very different motives in mind. Diagnosing the exiled Kaiser as mentally ill was a kind of exorcism of the Hohenzollern rule, opening the way for either a socialist republic or the hoped-for rule of a new leader. But more importantly, it was a way to discuss and allocate political responsibility and culpability. Psychiatric diagnoses were used to exonerate both the Emperor (for whom the treaty of Versailles provided a tribunal as war criminal) and the German nation. They were also used to blame the Kaiser’s entourage and groups that had allegedly manipulated the weak-willed monarch. Medical concepts became a vehicle for a debate on the key political questions in interwar Germany.

A Neurotic Dog’s Life: Experimental Psychiatry and the Conditional Reflex Method in the Work of W. Horsley Gantt

Horsley Gantt feeding dog, Gundy.

The June 2018 issue of Isis contains an article on the conditional reflex and experimental psychiatry that will interest AHP readers.

A Neurotic Dog’s Life: Experimental Psychiatry and the Conditional Reflex Method in the Work of W. Horsley Gantt,” by Edmund Ramsden. Abstract:

From the 1920s, inspired by the work of Ivan Pavlov, many American psychiatrists, physiologists, and psychologists turned to the animal laboratory. Focusing on the work of W. Horsley Gantt, this essay will explore the use of the conditional reflex method in the study of “experimental neurosis.” Concentrating on the interaction between thought and material operations in Gantt’s Pavlovian Laboratory, the essay will show how idiosyncratic emotional reactions and behaviors among experimental animals were used to address the issue of individuality in science, medicine, and society. It was through working with the dog that individuality was identified as an incessant problem that could be utilized in laboratory practice, as a necessary focus of psychiatric medicine, and as a means of defending science from excessive determinism and stereotyped thinking.

Special Issue: Psychopathological Fringes: Knowledge Making and Boundary Work in 20th Century Psychiatry

A just-released special issue from History of the Human Sciences, “Psychopathological Fringes: Knowledge Making and Boundary Work in 20th Century Psychiatry,” will interest AHP readers. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“Exploring the fringes of psychopathology: Boundary entities, category work and other borderline phenomena in the history of 20th century psychopathology,” by Nicolas Henckes, Volker Hess, and Marie Reinholdt. Abstract:

This special issue of History of the Humane Sciences intends to shed light on a series of psychopathological entities that do not target well defined conditions and experiences, but rather aim at delimiting zones of uncertainty that defy psychopathology’s order of things: mild diagnoses or subthreshold disorders, borderline conditions, culture bound syndromes, or ideas of dimensions and dimensionality. While these categories have come to play an increasingly central role in psychiatric and psychological thinking during the last 50 years, historians and social scientists have had remarkably little to say about how they have been created, what they have been used for, and what kind of realities they have helped to shape. In this introductory article we propose the concept of ‘psychopathological fringes’ to refer to these categories that are located somewhere at the border of psychopathological classifications and refer to zones of conceptual underdetermination. The notion of fringes serves to highlight both the conceptually and the socially marginal nature of the conditions, personal identities, and worlds delimited by these categories. The fringes of psychopathology are zones of vagueness, of epistemic uncertainty, and moral ambiguity. This introduction proposes a first incursion in these zones. It suggests some of the reason why they might have had attracted little interest in the past and why they may be more salient recently. It follows some analytical clues that might help chart a way through it and proposes a map through the collection of articles included in this issue.

“Feeling and smelling psychosis: American alienism, psychiatry, prodromes and the limits of ‘category work’,” by Richard Noll. Abstract: Continue reading Special Issue: Psychopathological Fringes: Knowledge Making and Boundary Work in 20th Century Psychiatry

The Persuasive Rhetoric of a Manifesto (1870): Ribot’s Promise of an “Independent” Psychological Science

A special issue of Centaurus on “The promises of science. Historical perspectives,” guest edited by Annette Mülberger and Jaume Navarro includes an article of interest to AHP readers.

The persuasive rhetoric of a manifesto (1870): Ribot’s promise of an “independent” psychological science,” by Annette Mülberger. Abstract:

Here, I take a closer look at a manifesto in the history of psychology: the introduction to the book entitled “La psychologie anglaise contemporaine.” It was published in 1870 and written by the French psychologist and philosopher Théodule Ribot (1839–1916). First, I review the use of the label “manifesto” in the historiography of psychology. Then the aim, rhetoric, and arguments of Ribot’s text are examined, as well as the intellectual atmosphere surrounding it. Through this research, I hope to contribute to a better understanding of the aims and some immediate reactions to Ribot’s text. My analysis focuses on his understanding of psychology as “independent science.” Ribot’s manifesto contains criticism of the prevalent philosophies of his time, namely eclectic spiritualism and the positivistic schools. Within this setting, Ribot tried to present his psychology as ideologically neutral, aiming at revealing “psychological facts.” My interpretation portrays Ribot’s tone as optimistic, framed in terms of a promise and an invitation; I see his text as primarily an attempt to attract collaborators through a broadly defined scientific project. He envisaged an almost boundless field of empirical research, based on the promise of intellectual freedom and scientific progress.

History of Psychiatry: Hysteria in WWI, Leucotomy in Western Australia, and More

A new issue of History of Psychiatry is now online. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“‘A more perfect arrangement of plants’: the botanical model in psychiatric nosology, 1676 to the present day,” by Daniel Mason and Honor Hsin. Abstract:

Psychiatric classification remains a complex endeavour; since the Enlightenment, nosologists have made use of various models and metaphors to describe their systems. Here we present the most common model, botanical taxonomy, and trace its history from the nosologies of Sydenham, Sauvages and Linnaeus; to evolutionary models; to the later contributions of Hughlings-Jackson, Kraepelin and Jaspers. Over time, there has been a shift from explicit attempts to pattern disease classification on botanical systems, to a more metaphorical use. We find that changes in the understanding of plants and plant relationships parallel changes in the conceptualization of mental illness. Not only have scientific discoveries influenced the use of metaphor, but the language of metaphor has also both illuminated and constrained psychiatric nosology.

“Psychiatry in Portugal: Key actors and conceptual history (1884–1924),” by José Morgado Pereira. Abstract: Continue reading History of Psychiatry: Hysteria in WWI, Leucotomy in Western Australia, and More

Sebastián Gil-Riaño on “Relocating Anti-Racist Science”

A forthcoming article in The British Journal for the History of Science, available now online,  on mid-twentieth century anti-racist science may be of interest to AHP readers.

Relocating anti-racist science: the 1950 UNESCO Statement on Race and economic development in the global South,” by Sebastián Gil-Riaño. Abstract:

This essay revisits the drafting of the first UNESCO Statement on Race (1950) in order to reorient historical understandings of mid-twentieth-century anti-racism and science. Historians of science have primarily interpreted the UNESCO statements as an oppositional project led by anti-racist scientists from the North Atlantic and concerned with dismantling racial typologies, replacing them with population-based conceptions of human variation. Instead of focusing on what anti-racist scientists opposed, this article highlights the futures they imagined and the applied social-science projects that anti-racist science drew from and facilitated. The scientific experts who participated in drafting the first UNESCO Statement on Race played important roles in late colonial, post-colonial and international projects designed to modernize, assimilate and improve so-called backward communities – typically indigenous or Afro-descendent groups in the global South. Such connections between anti-racist science and the developmental imaginaries of the late colonial period indicate that the transition from fixed racial typologies to sociocultural and psychological conceptualizations of human diversity legitimated the flourishing of modernization discourses in the Cold War era. In this transition to an economic-development paradigm, ‘race’ did not vanish so much as fragment into a series of finely tuned and ostensibly anti-racist conceptions that offered a moral incentive for scientific elites to intervene in the ways of life of those deemed primitive.

May Issue of History of Psychology: Temperament, Psychical Research, and More

The May 2018 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.

“Temperamental workers: Psychology, business, and the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale in interwar America,” by Kira Lussier. Abstract:

This article traces the history of a popular interwar psychological test, the Humm-Wadsworth Temperament Scale (HWTS), from its development in the early 1930s to its adoption by corporate personnel departments. In popular articles, trade magazines, and academic journals, industrial psychologist Doncaster Humm and personnel manager Guy Wadsworth trumpeted their scale as a scientific measure of temperament that could ensure efficient hiring practices and harmonious labor relations by screening out “problem employees” and screening for temperamentally “normal” workers. This article demonstrates how concerns about the epistemological and scientific credibility of the HWTS were intimately entangled with concerns about its value to business at every step in the test’s development. The HWTS sought to measure the emotional and social dimensions of an individual’s personality so as to assess their suitability for work. The practice of temperament testing conjured a vision of the subject whose emotional and social disposition was foundational to their own capacity to find employment, and whose capacity to appropriately express, but regulate, their emotions was foundational to corporate order. The history of the HWTS offers an instructive case of how psychological tests embed social hierarchies, political claims, and economic ideals within their very theoretical and methodological foundations. Although the HWTS itself may have faded from use, the test directly inspired creators of subsequent popular personality tests, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

“Pierre Janet and the enchanted boundary of psychical research,” by Renaud Evrard, Erika Annabelle Pratte, and Etzel Cardeña. Abstract: Continue reading May Issue of History of Psychology: Temperament, Psychical Research, and More

“He Must Die or Go Mad in This Place”: Prisoners, Insanity, and the Pentonville Model Prison Experiment, 1842–52

AHP readers may be interested in an article in the most recent issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine.

““He Must Die or Go Mad in This Place”: Prisoners, Insanity, and the Pentonville Model Prison Experiment, 1842–52,” by Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland. Abstract:

The relationship between prisons and mental illness has preoccupied prison administrators, physicians, and reformers from the establishment of the modern prison service in the nineteenth century to the current day. Here we take the case of Pentonville Model Prison, established in 1842 with the aim of reforming convicts through religious exhortation, rigorous discipline and training, and the imposition of separate confinement in its most extreme form. Our article demonstrates how following the introduction of separate confinement, the prison chaplains rather than the medical officers took a lead role in managing the minds of convicts. However, instead of reforming and improving prisoners’ minds, Pentonville became associated with high rates of mental disorder, challenging the institution’s regime and reputation. We explore the role of chaplains, doctors, and other prison officers in debating, disputing, and managing cases of mental breakdown and the dismantling of separate confinement in the face of mounting criticism.


Late Enlightenment Crises of Facts: Mesmerism and Meteorites

Now available from Configurations:

Late Enlightenment Crises of Facts: Mesmerism and Meteorites,” by Simon Schaffer. Abstract:

Scientific communities have frequently denied claims that later prove justified: such episodes are used in debates about the conventions that govern decisions about matters of fact. Instructive cases of such decisions and reversals occurred during a serious crisis of facts that erupted in Enlightenment Europe from the 1780s. Establishment of scientific facts relied on appropriate groups to produce and judge them, but during such periods of radical social instability, these systems were in trouble. Notions of popular superstition and of over-sophisticated imagination were then used to manage fact claims. Plebeians were reckoned superstitious and incapable of imagination; genteel elites could seem too prone to imaginative fancy, too skeptical of received doctrine. Examples of the late Enlightenment fact crises especially evident during controversies around animal magnetism, which seemed to dramatize refined vulnerability to imagination, and around aeroliths, the widespread and allegedly vulgar superstition that stones could fall to Earth, illuminate issues of authority and evidence that continue decisively to affect public sciences, traditional customs, and their claims to produce effective factual knowledge.