New Issue of History of Psychiatry

The first issue of the History of Psychiatry for 2010 has been released online. Included in this issue are seven articles, which address the madness of King George III, Philipp Pinel, Danish psychiatrist August Wimmer, Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard, William Saunders Hallaran and John Jackson.

Titles, authors and abstracts are listed below.

King George III and porphyria: a clinical re-examination of the historical evidence by Timothy J Peters (Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, University of Birmingham) and D. Wilkinson (Institute of Education, University of London). The abstract reads:

« The diagnosis that George III suffered from acute porphyria has gained widespread acceptance, but re-examination of the evidence suggests it is unlikely that he had porphyria.The porphyria diagnosis was advanced by Ida Macalpine and Richard Hunter, whose clinical symptomatology and historical methodology were flawed. They highlighted selected symptoms, while ignoring, dismissing or suppressing counter-evidence. Their claims about peripheral neuropathy, cataracts, vocal hoarseness and abdominal pains are re- evaluated; and it is also demonstrated that evidence of discoloured urine is exceedingly weak. Macalpine and Hunter believed that mental illnesses were primarily caused by physical diseases, and their diagnosis of George III formed part of a wider agenda to promote controversial views about past, contemporary and future methods in psychiatry. »

The madness of King George III: a psychiatric re-assessment by Timothy J Peters (Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity, University of Birmingham) and Allan Beveridge (Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline, UK). The abstract reads:

« This research, based on a study of King George III’s medical records and of contemporary diaries of his courtiers and equerries, further confirms the considerable doubt on the claim of Richard Hunter and Ida Macalpine that the King suffered from recurrent attacks of acute porphyria. The present study examines the above records from a psychiatric viewpoint, together with some additional reports, to re-assess the nature of the King’s maladies. It concludes that he suffered from recurrent mania (four episodes), with chronic mania and possibly a degree of fatuity during the last decade of his life. This is in agreement with previous reports that he suffered from manic-depressive psychosis. »

Science and morals in the affective psychopathology of Philippe Pinel by Louis C Charland (University of Western Ontario, Canada). The abstract reads:

« Building on what he believed was a new ‘medico-philosophical’ method, Philippe Pinel made a bold theoretical attempt to find a place for the passions and other affective posits in psychopathology. However, his courageous attempt to steer affectivity onto the high seas of medical science ran aground on two great reefs that still threaten the scientific status of affectivity today. Epistemologically, there is the elusive nature of the signs and symptoms of affectivity. Ethically, there is the stubborn manner in which fact and value are intermingled in affectivity. Both obstacles posed insuperable difficulties for Pinel, who never really managed to extricate his affective psychopathology from the confines of the Lockean intellectual paradigm. »

Wimmer’s concept of psychogenic psychosis revisited by Augusto C Castagnini (University of Cambridge). The abstract reads:

« In the early twentieth century the Danish psychiatrist August Wimmer (1872—1937) developed the concept of psychogenic psychosis (PP) as a category of mental disorders separate from schizophrenia and manic depression. It subsumed a variety of clinical conditions with affective, confusional and paranoid features typically triggered by a psychical trauma. Wimmer’s work has established itself as one of the classic texts in Scandinavian psychiatry but, for linguistic reasons, long remained almost unknown in other European countries. Translated into English in 2003, it is now available for historical and psychopathological analyses. This paper describes the original meaning of PP and sets it in context, then discusses the implications arising from the usage of the diagnostic categories introduced to replace PP in modern international classifications. »

J.-M. G. Itard’s 1825 study: movement and the science of the human mind by Sara Newman (Kent State University, USA). The abstract reads:

« Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard’s 1825 ‘Study of several involuntary functions of the apparatus of movement, gripping, and voice’ discusses 10 individuals with uncontrolled movements but no other significant impairments. Thus, otherwise normal people move in inappropriate ways against their better judgement. Although the study contains the first clinical description of Tourette Syndrome, it has received little attention beyond that notice. Examined in its entirety and in its cultural context, Itard’s study characterizes patients’ movements in terms of the will, propriety, animals and gender. Lacking control over their movements, the individuals are underdeveloped humans. Accordingly, sufferers’ facial expression, bodily movements and unplanned vocalizations render them more animal than human and more deviant than normal, although they are neither insane nor evil. »

Hallaran’s circulating swing by Caoimhghín S Breathnach (University College Dublin). The abstract reads:

« William Saunders Hallaran (c.1765—1825) was physician superintendent at the County and City of Cork Lunatic Asylum for 40 years, where he distinguished between mental insanity and organic (systemic) delirium. In treatment he used emetics and purgatives, digitalis and opium, the shower bath and exercise, and argued that patients should be saved from ‘unavoidable sloth’ by mental as well as manual occupation. However, it is as an exponent of the circulating swing, proposed by Erasmus Darwin and used by Joseph Cox, that he is remembered. His best results were achieved, as he recorded in An Enquiry in 1810, by inducing sleep in mania of recent onset, but perhaps his most enduring observation was that some of his patients enjoyed the rotatory experience, and he had enough sense to allow the use of the swing as a mode of amusement. »

The work of John Hughlings Jackson: Part 1 by JM López Piñero by GE Berrios (University of Cambridge). The abstract reads:

« After returning to Spain from a research period in London on a Wellcome Trust scholarship, José Maria López Piñero1 published in 1973 a short book entitled John Hughlings Jackson (1835—1911), Evolucionismo y Neurología (Madrid, Editorial Moneda). Written from the perspective of the classical German medical historiography that the author had imbibed from Werner Leibbrand and Annemarie Wettley, this work truly added to Jacksonian scholarship. Neither hagiographic nor nitpicking, it offered a sober assessment of the contribution of the great Yorkshireman and it was soon to become a minor classic among connoisseurs. Although important additions to Jacksonian scholarship have appeared since 1973, López Piñero’s book has retained its relevance. It will be published in History of Psychiatry in two parts. »

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