This year’s last issue of the History of Psychiatry is now available. Details below:
Claude-Olivier Doron: Félix Voisin and the genesis of abnormals
This article traces the genealogy of the category of ‘abnormals’ in psychiatry. It focuses on the French alienist Felix Voisin (1794–1872) who played a decisive role in the creation of alienist knowledge and institutions for problem children, criminals, idiots and lunatics. After a presentation of the category of ‘abnormals’ as understood at the end of the nineteenth century, I identify in the works of Voisin a key moment in the concept’s evolution. I show how, based on concepts borrowed from phrenology and applied first to idiocy, Voisin allows alienism to establish links between the medico-legal (including penitentiary) and medical-educational fields (including difficult childhood). I stress the extent to which this enterprise is related to Voisin’s humanism, which claimed to remodel pedagogy and the right to punish on the anthropological particularities of individuals, in order to improve them.
The debate about the nature of delusion has rumbled on for over a century without resolution. The current situation is a stand-off between psychologists, who propose various theories as to the psychological explicability of delusion, and psychiatrists, who generally regard delusion as inexplicable. Our main aim in this 2-part article is to reprise the intellectual atmosphere of German psychopathology in the inter-war and immediate post-war years, when the issues concerning delusion were formulated with more sensitivity to the actual delusions encountered in clinical practice. In Part 1 we mount a critique of psychological and psychiatric theories of delusion.
Pascal Le Maléfan and Andreas Sommer: Léon Marillier and the veridical hallucination in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century French psychology and psychopathology
Recent research on the professionalization of psychology at the end of the nineteenth century shows how objects of knowledge which appear illegitimate to us today shaped the institutionalization of disciplines. The veridical or telepathic hallucination was one of these objects, constituting a field both of division and exchange between nascent psychology and disciplines known as ‘psychic sciences’ in France, and ‘psychical research’ in the Anglo-American context. In France, Leon Marillier (1862–1901) was the main protagonist in discussions concerning the concept of the veridical hallucination, which gave rise to criticisms by mental specialists and psychopathologists. After all, not only were these hallucinations supposed to occur in healthy subjects, but they also failed to correspond to the Esquirolian definition of hallucinations through being corroborated by their representation of external, objective events.
The emigration of Lothar Kalinowsky (1899–1992) might, at first glance, seem to be a history of coincidence and twists of fate, but it is shown to be a truly entangled and intertwined history and story. The international introduction of electroconvulsive therapy was not only closely involved with the political, scientific and economic conditions during World War II, but the story of Kalinowsky’s relevance to it emerges from competing stories, told differently in Europe and the USA – and by Kalinowsky himself. Tracing these stories up to the end of the 1960s reveals Kalinowsky as an influential inheritor and patron of Berlin Biological Psychiatry, rather than telling the history of an émigré innovator of international neuropsychiatric research.
Eitan Bronschtein: The multiaxial assessment and the DSM-III: a conceptual analysis
With the release of the DSM-III, multiaxial assessment, which was a new concept, was introduced to daily clinical practice. This article will review the history and the development of the concept of multiaxial assessment and will focus on the its relationship to the DSM-III. In conclusion I will discuss different critiques of the concept.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Italian psychiatry was characterized by its emphasis on an organic explanation of mental illness. ‘Cerebral mythology’ was a major influence in Italy, at least until the second half of the twentieth century, often at the expense of the development of psychology. In this context, a few psychiatrists adopted a different epistemological perspective, based on a more ‘integrative’ view of their discipline. In particular, Gaetano Perusini stands out. He promoted the concept of psychiatry as a science which embraced many different fields, thus emphasizing the theme of pluralism, which is still debated today in the philosophy of science and psychiatric practice.
There is considerable confusion in the field of research on the history of psychiatry as to who created the term anancasm. This article seeks to clarify that the term was coined by the Hungarian psychiatrist Gyula Donáth, who was born in Baja, on the Danube, and worked mainly in Budapest. Donáth’s publications reveal that his predominant sphere of interest and research was neurology and psychiatry. A number of his publications deal with epilepsy and obsessive-compulsive disorders. After a period of intensive research, during which he spent some time in Berlin at the clinic of neuroscientist Carl Westphal, Donáth proposed the term ‘anancasm’ in 1895 to describe compulsive mental processes.
More information on the december 2015 issue.