Tag Archives: Pasteur

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.

New Issue: JHN

The October issue of the Journal of the History of Neurosciences (JHN) has just been released online. The issue features four original articles, as well as a piece of neuroscience history trivia. Among the topics covered in this issue of JHN are the public dissemination of knowledge of the electric eel and the relation of such knowledge to understanding of “nerve action”, the interactions – or lack thereof – of contemporary Frenchmen Louis Pasteur and Jean-Martin Charcot, and debates over localization of cerebral function in early electrical stimulation studies. Titles, authors, and abstracts from this issue of the JHN are given below.

“The Role of The Gentleman’s Magazine in the Dissemination of Knowledge About Electric Fish in the Eighteenth Century” by Stanley Finger and Ian Ferguson, both of the Department of Psychology, at Washington University in St. Louis Missouri. The abstract reads:

Although torpedoes and Malopterurus, a Nile catfish, had been described and even used medically in antiquity, their discharges were poorly understood before the second half of the eighteenth century. It was then that their actions, along with those of certain South American “eels,” became firmly associated with electricity. The realization that an animal could produce electricity marked a turning point in the history of neurophysiology, Continue reading New Issue: JHN