Sewing the Tapestry of the History of Psychiatry: Anne Harrington’s ‘Mind Fixers’

David Robertson // Over the last twenty years, considerable scholarly contributions have been made to the history of psychiatry. We have had historical analyses of the concept of “nerves” and “neurasthenia,” of “trauma” and the emergence of diagnoses such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.[1] Historians have examined the material settings of neuropsychiatric efforts to localize brain…

Review: “Quackery” highlights history of trusting medical experts

Emilie Egger // Review of Lydia Kang and Nate Pedersen. Quackery: a Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything. New York: Workman Publishing Company, Inc. 2017. The publishers of Quackery promise “67 shocking but true medical misfires that run the gamut from bizarre to deadly,” and the book’s authors are well-suited to this…

Special Issue Review: Chemistry, Disability, and Frankenstein

Diana Rose Newby // Chemistry, Disability, and Frankenstein, theme issue of Literature and Medicine, vol. 36, no. 2, fall 2018. In her introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley concludes with well wishes for her creation’s second life: “And now, once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper” (25). Today,…

A New History of Hereditary Science: ‘Genetics in the Madhouse’

David Robertson // Aided by the rapid growth of publicly available big data and internet search engines, genealogy tracing has become a hugely popular activity. But its origins are not so technologically glamorous: as historian Theodore Porter puts it, ‘The science of human heredity arose first amid the moans, stench, and unruly despair of mostly…

Databases, Diagnoses, and the History of Psychiatry

David Robertson // Like other fields of medicine, psychiatry depends upon “information infrastructures” in order to distinguish between different mental disorders. Such infrastructures include the personnel, tools, systems, and networks essential for the day-to-day collection of large quantities of data. Attending to the historical transformation of information infrastructures in psychiatry calls on the historian to…