On This Day … 18 June

People (Births)

  • 1948 – Sherry Turkle, American academic, psychologist, and sociologist.

Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle (born 18 June 1948) is the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She obtained a BA in Social Studies and later a PhD in Sociology and Personality Psychology at Harvard University. She now focuses her research on psychoanalysis and human-technology interaction. She has written several books focusing on the psychology of human relationships with technology, especially in the realm of how people relate to computational objects.

In The Second Self, originally published in 1984, Turkle writes about how computers are not tools as much as they are a part of our social and psychological lives. “‘Technology,’ she writes, ‘catalyzes changes not only in what we do but in how we think.’” She goes on using Jean Piaget’s psychology discourse to discuss how children learn about computers and how this affects their minds. The Second Self was received well by critics and was praised for being “a very thorough and ambitious study.”

In Life on the Screen, Turkle discusses how emerging technology, specifically computers, affect the way we think and see ourselves as humans. She presents to us the different ways in which computers affect us, and how it has led us to the now prevalent use of “cyberspace.” Turkle suggests that assuming different personal identities in a MUD (i.e. computer fantasy game) may be therapeutic. She also considers the problems that arise when using MUDs. Turkle discusses what she calls women’s “non-linear” approach to the technology, calling it “soft mastery” and “bricolage” (as opposed to the “hard mastery” of linear, abstract thinking and computer programming). She discusses problems that arise when children pose as adults online.

Turkle also explores the psychological and societal impact of such “relational artifacts” as social robots, and how these and other technologies are changing attitudes about human life and living things generally. One result may be a devaluation of authentic experience in a relationship. Together with Seymour Papert she wrote the influential paper “Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete.” Turkle has written numerous articles on psychoanalysis and culture and on the “subjective side” of people’s relationships with technology, especially computers. She is engaged in active study of robots, digital pets, and simulated creatures, particularly those designed for children and the elderly as well as in a study of mobile cellular technologies. Profiles of Turkle have appeared in such publications as The New York Times, Scientific American, and Wired Magazine. She is a featured media commentator on the effects of technology for CNN, NBC, ABC, and NPR, including appearances on such programs as Nightline and 20/20.

Turkle has begun to assess the adverse effects of rapidly advancing technology on human social behaviour. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other was published in 2011 and when discussing the topic she speaks about the need to limit the use of popular technological devices because of these adverse effects.

On This Day … 17 June

People (Births)

  • 1919 – William Kaye Estes, American psychologist and academic (d. 2011).

William Kaye Estes

William Kaye Estes (17 June 1919 to 17 August 2011) was an American psychologist.

In order to develop a statistical explanation for the learning phenomena, William Kaye Estes developed the Stimulus Sampling Theory in 1950 which suggested that a stimulus-response association is learned on a single trial; however, the learning process is continuous and consists of the accumulation of distinct stimulus-response pairings.

A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Estes as the 77th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

On This Day … 15 June

People (Births)

  • 1902 – Erik Erikson, German-American psychologist and psychoanalyst (d. 1994).
  • 1924 – Hédi Fried, Swedish author and psychologist.

Erik Erikson

Erik Homburger Erikson (born Erik Salomonsen; 15 June 1902 to 12 May 1994) was a German-American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst known for his theory on psychological development of human beings. He may be most famous for coining the phrase identity crisis. His son, Kai T. Erikson, is a noted American sociologist.

Despite lacking a bachelor’s degree, Erikson served as a professor at prominent institutions, including Harvard, University of California, Berkeley, and Yale. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Erikson as the 12th most cited psychologist of the 20th century.

Hedi Fried

Hédi Fried (born 15 June 1924) is a Swedish-Romanian author and psychologist. A Holocaust survivor, she passed through Auschwitz as well as Bergen-Belsen, coming to Sweden in July 1945 with the boat M/S Rönnskär.

On This Day … 14 June

People (Births)

  • 1864 – Alois Alzheimer, German psychiatrist and neuropathologist (d. 1915).

Alois Alzheimer

Alois Alzheimer (14 June 1864 to 19 December 1915) was a German psychiatrist and neuropathologist and a colleague of Emil Kraepelin. Alzheimer is credited with identifying the first published case of “presenile dementia”, which Kraepelin would later identify as Alzheimer’s disease.

After graduating from Wurzburg as a Doctor of Medicine in 1887, he spent five months assisting mentally ill women before he took an office in the city mental asylum in Frankfurt, the Städtische Anstalt für Irre und Epileptische (Asylum for Lunatics and Epileptics). Emil Sioli, a noted psychiatrist, was the dean of the asylum. Another neurologist, Franz Nissl, began to work in the same asylum with Alzheimer. Together, they conducted research on the pathology of the nervous system, specifically the normal and pathological anatomy of the cerebral cortex. Alzheimer was the co-founder and co-publisher of the journal Zeitschrift für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie, though he never wrote a book that he could call his own.

While at the Frankfurt asylum, Alzheimer also met Emil Kraepelin, one of the best-known German psychiatrists of the time. Kraepelin became a mentor to Alzheimer, and the two worked very closely for the next several years. When Kraepelin moved to Munich to work at the Royal Psychiatric Hospital in 1903, he invited Alzheimer to join him.

At the time, Kraepelin was doing clinical research on psychosis in senile patients; Alzheimer, on the other hand, was more interested in the lab work of senile illnesses. The two men would face many challenges involving the politics of the psychiatric community. For example, both formal and informal arrangements would be made among psychiatrists at asylums and universities to receive cadavers.

In 1904, Alzheimer completed his Habilitation at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, where he was appointed as a professor in 1908. Afterwards, he left Munich for the Silesian Friedrich Wilhelm University in Breslau in 1912, where he accepted a post as professor of psychiatry and director of the Neurologic and Psychiatric Institute. His health deteriorated shortly after his arrival so that he was hospitalised. Alzheimer died three years later.

Auguste Deter

In 1901, Alzheimer observed a patient at the Frankfurt asylum named Auguste Deter. The 51-year-old patient had strange behavioral symptoms, including a loss of short-term memory; she became his obsession over the coming years. Auguste Deter was a victim of the politics of the time in the psychiatric community; the Frankfurt asylum was too expensive for her husband. Herr Deter made several requests to have his wife moved to a less expensive facility, but Alzheimer intervened in these requests. Frau Deter, as she was known, remained at the Frankfurt asylum, where Alzheimer had made a deal to receive her records and brain upon her death.

On 8 April 1906, Frau Deter died, and Alzheimer had her medical records and brain brought to Munich where he was working in Kraepelin’s laboratory. With two Italian physicians, he used the staining techniques of Bielschowsky to identify amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. These brain anomalies would become identifiers of what later became known as Alzheimer’s disease.

Another hypothesis offered by Claire O’Brien was that Auguste Deter actually had a vascular dementing disease.

Findings

Alzheimer discussed his findings on the brain pathology and symptoms of presenile dementia publicly on 03 November 1906, at the Tübingen meeting of the Southwest German Psychiatrists. The attendees at this lecture seemed uninterested in what he had to say. The lecturer that followed Alzheimer was to speak on the topic of “compulsive masturbation”, which the audience was so eagerly awaiting that they sent Alzheimer away without any questions or comments on his discovery of the pathology of a type of senile dementia.

Following the lecture, Alzheimer published a short paper summarizing his lecture; in 1907 he wrote a larger paper detailing the disease and his findings. The disease would not become known as Alzheimer’s disease until 1910, when Kraepelin named it so in the chapter on “Presenile and Senile Dementia” in the 8th edition of his Handbook of Psychiatry. By 1911, his description of the disease was being used by European physicians to diagnose patients in the US.

Contemporaries

American Solomon Carter Fuller gave a report similar to that of Alzheimer at a lecture five months before Alzheimer. Oskar Fischer was a fellow German psychiatrist, 12 years Alzheimer’s junior, who reported 12 cases of senile dementia in 1907 around the time that Alzheimer published his short paper summarizing his lecture.

Alzheimer and Fischer had different interpretations of the disease, but due to Alzheimer’s short life, they never had the opportunity to meet and discuss their ideas.

Among the doctors trained by Alois Alzheimer and Emil Kraepelin at München in the beginning of the XXth century were the Spanish neuropathologists Nicolás Achúcarro and Gonzalo Rodríguez Lafora, two distinguished disciples of Santiago Ramón y Cajal and members of the Spanish Neurological School. Alzheimer recommended the young and brilliant Nicolás Achúcarro to organise the neuropathological service at the Government Hospital for the Insane, at Washington D.C. (current, NIH), and after two years of work, he was substituted by Gonzalo Rodríguez Lafora.

Other Interests

Alzheimer was known for having a variety of medical interests including vascular diseases of the brain, early dementia, brain tumours, forensic psychiatry and epilepsy. Alzheimer was a leading specialist in histopathology in Europe. His colleagues knew him to be a dedicated professor and cigar smoker.

On This Day … 13 June

People (Births)

  • 1809 – Heinrich Hoffmann, German psychiatrist and author (d. 1894).
  • 1894 – Leo Kanner, Ukrainian-American psychiatrist and physician (d. 1981).
  • 1931 – Irvin D. Yalom, American psychotherapist and academic.

Heinrich Hoffmann

Heinrich Hoffmann (13 June 1809 to 20 September 1894) was a German psychiatrist, who also wrote some short works including Der Struwwelpeter, an illustrated book portraying children misbehaving.

Hoffmann worked for a pauper’s clinic and had a private practice. He also taught anatomy at the Senckenberg Foundation. None of this paid very well, and when the Frankfurt lunatic asylum’s previous doctor (who was a friend of his) retired in 1851, he was eager to take the post even though he had no expertise in psychiatry. This changed quickly, as his later competent publications in the field show. Hoffmann portrays himself as a caring, humane psychiatrist, who strove to be the sunshine in the life of his miserable patients. His gregarious personality may well have been popular with many of them. His statistical compilations show that up to 40% of the people with acute cases of what would today be called schizophrenia were discharged after a few weeks or months and stayed in remission for years and perhaps permanently. Always a skeptic, Hoffmann voices doubts whether this was due to any therapy he may have given them. Much of his energy from 1851 onwards went into campaigning for a new, modern asylum building with gardens in the city’s green belt. He was successful and the new clinic was built at the site of today’s Frankfurt University’s Humanities campus (The original building was demolished in the 1920s).

Leo Kanner

Leo Kanner (13 June 1894 to 03 April 1981) was an Ukrainian American psychiatrist, physician, and social activist best known for his work related to autism. Before working at the Henry Phipps Psychiatric Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Kanner practiced as a physician in Germany and in South Dakota. In 1943, Kanner published his landmark paper Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact, describing 11 children who were highly intelligent but displayed “a powerful desire for aloneness” and “an obsessive insistence on persistent sameness.” He named their condition “early infantile autism,” which is now known as autism spectrum disorder. Kanner was in charge of developing the first child psychiatry clinic in the United States and later served as the Chief of Child Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He is one of the co-founders of The Children’s Guild, a non-profit organisation serving children, families and child-serving organisations throughout Maryland and Washington, D.C., and dedicated to “Transforming how America Cares for and Educates its Children and Youth.” He is widely considered one of the most influential American psychiatrists of the 20th century.

Irvin D. Yalon

Irvin David Yalom (born 13 June 1931) is an American existential psychiatrist who is emeritus professor of psychiatry at Stanford University, as well as author of both fiction and nonfiction.

After graduating with a BA from George Washington University in 1952 and a Doctor of Medicine from Boston University School of Medicine in 1956 he went on to complete his internship at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and his residency at the Phipps Clinic of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and completed his training in 1960. After two years of Army service at Tripler General Hospital in Honolulu, Yalom began his academic career at Stanford University. He was appointed to the faculty in 1963 and promoted over the following years, being granted tenure in 1968. Soon after this period he made some of his most lasting contributions by teaching about group psychotherapy and developing his model of existential psychotherapy.

His writing on existential psychology centres on what he refers to as the four “givens” of the human condition: isolation, meaninglessness, mortality and freedom, and discusses ways in which the human person can respond to these concerns either in a functional or dysfunctional fashion.

In 1970, Yalom published The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy, speaking about the research literature around group psychotherapy and the social psychology of small group behavior. This work explores how individuals function in a group context, and how members of group therapy gain from his participation group.

In addition to his scholarly, non-fiction writing, Yalom has produced a number of novels and also experimented with writing techniques. In Every Day Gets a Little Closer Yalom invited a patient to co-write about the experience of therapy. The book has two distinct voices which are looking at the same experience in alternating sections. Yalom’s works have been used as collegiate textbooks and standard reading for psychology students. His new and unique view of the patient/client relationship has been added to curriculum in psychology programs at such schools as John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

Yalom has continued to maintain a part-time private practice and has authored a number of video documentaries on therapeutic techniques. Yalom is also featured in the 2003 documentary Flight from Death, a film that investigates the relationship of human violence to fear of death, as related to subconscious influences. The Irvin D. Yalom Institute of Psychotherapy, which he co-directs with Professor Ruthellen Josselson, works to advance Yalom’s approach to psychotherapy. This unique combination of integrating more philosophy into the psychotherapy can be considered as psychosophy.

He was married to author and historian Marilyn Yalom, who died in November, 2019. Their four children are: Eve, a gynaecologist, Reid, a photographer, Victor, a psychologist and entrepreneur and Ben, a theatre director.

What was the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society?

Introduction

The Vienna Psychoanalytic Society (German: Wiener Psychoanalytische Vereinigung, WPV), formerly known as the Wednesday Psychological Society, is the oldest psychoanalysis society in the world.

In 1908, reflecting its growing institutional status as the international psychoanalytic authority of the time, the Wednesday group was reconstituted under its new name with Sigmund Freud as President, a position he relinquished in 1910 in favour of Alfred Adler.

During its 36-year history, between 1902 and 1938, the Society had a total of 150 members.

First Meetings

In November 1902, Sigmund Freud wrote to Alfred Adler, “A small circle of colleagues and supporters afford me the great pleasure of coming to my house in the evening (8:30 PM after dinner) to discuss interesting topics in psychology and neuropathology… Would you be so kind as to join us?” The group included Wilhelm Stekel, Max Kahane and Rudolf Reitler, soon joined by Adler. Stekel, a Viennese physician who had been in analysis with Freud, provided the initial impetus for the meetings. Freud made sure that each participant would contribute to the discussion by drawing names from an urn and asking each to address the chosen topic.

New members were invited only with the consent of the entire group, and only a few dropped out. By 1906, the group, then called the Wednesday Psychological Society, included 17 doctors, analysts and laymen. Otto Rank was hired that year to collect dues and keep written records of the increasingly complex discussions. Each meeting included the presentation of a paper or case history with discussion and a final summary by Freud. Some of the members presented detailed histories of their own psychological and sexual development.

Active Years

As the meetings grew to include more of the original contributors to psychoanalysis, analytic frankness sometimes became an excuse for personal attacks. In 1908 Max Graf, whose five-year-old son had been an early topic of discussion as Freud’s famous “Little Hans” case, deplored the disappearance of congeniality. There were still discussions from which important insights could be gleaned, but many became acrimonious. Many members wanted to abolish the tradition that new ideas discussed at the meetings were credited to the group as a whole, not the original contributor of the idea. Freud proposed that each member should have a choice, to have his comments regarded as his own intellectual property, or to put them in the public domain.

In an attempt to resolve some of the disputes, Freud officially dissolved the informal group and formed a new group under the name Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. On the suggestion of Alfred Adler, the election of new members was based on secret ballot rather than Freud’s invitation. Although the structure of the group became more democratic, the discussions lost some of their original eclectic character as the identity of the group developed. The psychosexual theories of Freud became the primary focus of the participants.

After the end of World War I, the membership became more homogeneous, and the proportion of members identifying as Jewish increased. Over the course of the 36 years of its existence (until 1938), the Society registered a total of 150 members. Most members were Jewish, and 50 were (like Freud himself) children of Jewish immigrants from other Habsburg states.

Prominent Members

  • Sigmund Freud.
  • Alfred Adler.
  • Wilhelm Reich.
  • Otto Rank.
  • Karl Abraham.
  • Carl Jung.
  • Sándor Ferenczi.
  • Guido Holzknecht.
  • Isidor Isaak Sadger.
  • Victor Tausk.
  • Hanns Sachs.
  • Ludwig Binswanger.
  • Carl Alfred Meier.
  • Sabina Spielrein.
  • Margarete Hilferding.
  • Herbert Silberer.
  • Paul Schilder.

On This Day … 12 June

People (Births)

  • 1912 – Carl Hovland, American psychologist and academic (d. 1961).
  • 1962 – Jordan Peterson, Canadian psychologist, professor and cultural critic.

People (Deaths)

  • 2012 – Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen, Danish-German psychoanalyst and author (b. 1917).

Carl Hovland

Carl Iver Hovland (12 June 1912 to 16 April 1961) was a psychologist working primarily at Yale University and for the US Army during World War II who studied attitude change and persuasion. He first reported the sleeper effect after studying the effects of the Frank Capra’s propaganda film Why We Fight on soldiers in the Army. In later studies on this subject, Hovland collaborated with Irving Janis who would later become famous for his theory of groupthink. Hovland also developed social judgment theory of attitude change. Carl Hovland thought that the ability of someone to resist persuasion by a certain group depended on your degree of belonging to the group.

Contributions to Psychology

Psychological research was Hovland’s intellectual joy. Especially in his early career, his investigations covered many topics. His papers in psychological journals included a study of test reliability, a major review of the literature on apparent movement, as well as his four classical papers on conditioned generalisation from his doctoral dissertation.

Hovland began to emphasize micro-level analysis of propaganda and its effects. Hovland’s army experiments were the beginnings of that micro-level analysis of an individual. Hovland’s “core conceptual variable was attitude”.

Hovland believed that if he was able to recognise the attitude an individual has towards a trigger, he would be able to predict the behaviour and actions of an individual over time. However, there were many studies that argued the contrary and showed that “an attitude toward a person or object does not predict or explain an individual’s overt behavior regarding that person or object”. This revelation of low correlation did not necessarily render findings useless but instead led to further research on how under certain circumstances it was possible to change a person’s behaviour via their attitudes.

While Hovland focused on an individual rather than a group level, he began to take into consideration interpersonal communication in the form of persuasion. Specifically, Hovland was responsible for carrying out a series of studies that contributed to the “cumulative understanding of persuasion behavior that has never since been matched or even rivaled”.

To test and apply his theorisation Hovland worked proposed the SMCR model. The SMCR model consists of four components – source variables, message variables, channel variables, and receiver variables. By manipulating each of these variables, Hovland was able to advance his “message-learning approach to attitude change”. There were problems with his particular approach, however, in that by focusing on a single dimension of the SMCR model, Hovland was unable to do more than isolate a factor rather than study the synergy between the different variables.

Jordan Peterson

Jordan Bernt Peterson (born 12 June 1962) is a Canadian professor of psychology, clinical psychologist, YouTube personality, and author. He began to receive widespread attention in the late 2010s for his views on cultural and political issues, often described as conservative.

Born and raised in Alberta, Peterson obtained bachelor’s degrees in political science and psychology from the University of Alberta and a PhD in clinical psychology from McGill University. After teaching and research at Harvard University, he returned to Canada in 1998 to join the faculty of psychology at the University of Toronto. In 1999, he published his first book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, which became the basis for many of his subsequent lectures. The book combined information from psychology, mythology, religion, literature, philosophy, and neuroscience to analyse systems of belief and meaning.

In 2016, Peterson released a series of YouTube videos criticising the Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code (Bill C-16), passed by the Parliament of Canada to introduce “gender identity and expression” as a prohibited grounds of discrimination. He argued that the bill would make the use of certain gender pronouns into compelled speech, and related this argument to a general critique of political correctness and identity politics. He subsequently received significant media coverage, attracting both support and criticism.

Afterwards, Peterson’s lectures and conversations – propagated especially through podcasts and YouTube – gradually gathered millions of views. He put his clinical practice and teaching duties on hold by 2018, when he published his second book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Promoted with a world tour, it became a bestseller in several countries. Throughout 2019 and 2020, Peterson’s work was obstructed by health problems in the aftermath of a severe benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome. In 2021, he published his third book, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life, and returned to active podcasting.

Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen

Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen (née Nielsen; 17 July 1917 to 12 June 2012) or the “Grande Dame of German Psychoanalysis” as she was often referred to as, was a German psychoanalyst who focused mainly on the themes of feminism, female sexuality, and the national psychology of post-war Germany.

Contributions to Psychology

From the 1960s, alongside the protagonists of the Frankfurt School, the Mitscherlichs played an important part in post-war Germany’s intellectual debates, employing psychoanalytic thought for explaining the causes behind Nazi Germany and its aftermath in German society to the present day. The first major book they wrote together was Die Unfähigkeit zu trauern. Grundlagen kollektiven Verhaltens (The Inability to Mourn: Principles of Collective Behaviour), first published in 1967, discussing why the Holocaust, the war crimes, and the sentiment of guilt on the offender’s part were not dealt with adequately in post-war German society.

Subsequently, Margarete Mitscherlich’s interest in feminist positions grew, as she became friends with German feminist journalist Alice Schwarzer, contributing to her magazine EMMA. In the first issue of the journal in November 1977, she confessed: “Ich bin Feministin” (“I am a feminist”). At the time, she also took an active part in legal actions against anti-women depictions in popular German media. Her book Die friedfertige Frau. Eine psychoanalytische Untersuchung zur Aggression der Geschlechter (The peaceable sex: On aggression in women and men), first published in 1987, is Mitscherlich’s most successful book to date, dealing with the roles women play in politics. Specifically, she discussed specific psychological cases pertaining to the potential for human aggression, the socialization of women, narcissism, loneliness, parenthood, and anti-Semitism within her writing. In the follow-up Die Zukunft ist weiblich (The future is feminine, 1987) Mitscherlich pleaded for values to become more feminine, even men’s values. She is notable for the highly politicised nature of her work when many of her peers considered neutrality an essential element of psychoanalysis.

Until well into her nineties, Mitscherlich worked as a psychoanalyst, advising younger colleagues and commenting political developments in the press. In her latest book, published in 2010, aged 93, Die Radikalität des Alters. Einsichten einer Psychoanalytikerin (The Radicality of Age. Insights of a Psychoanalyst) she reflects upon her own experience of ageing. She famously claimed that Germans cannot mourn.

Mitscherlich was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2001. She received the Ehrenplakette der Stadt Frankfurt am Main in 1990 and the Tony-Sender-Preis der Stadt Frankfurt am Main in 2005.

Mitscherlich has a son who was born in 1949, a lawyer and executive manager. She lived in the Frankfurt Westend until her death. She died, aged 94, in Frankfurt.

What was the Alleged Lunatics’ Friend Society?

Introduction

The Alleged Lunatics’ Friend Society was an advocacy group started by former asylum patients and their supporters in 19th-century Britain.

The Society campaigned for greater protection against wrongful confinement or cruel and improper treatment, and for reform of the lunacy laws. The Society is recognised today as a pioneer of the psychiatric survivors movement.

Background

There was concern in the United Kingdom in the 19th century about wrongful confinement in private madhouses, or asylums, and the mistreatment of patients, with tales of such abuses appearing in newspapers and magazines. The Madhouses Act 1774 had introduced a process of certification and a system for licensing and inspecting private madhouses, but had been ineffectual in reducing abuses or allaying public anxiety. Doctors in the 19th century were establishing themselves as arbiters of sanity but were reliant on subjective diagnoses and tended to equate insanity with eccentric or immoral behaviour. Public suspicion of their motives was also aroused by the profits that were made from private madhouses.

In 1838, Richard Paternoster, a former civil servant in the East India Company, was discharged after 41 days in a London madhouse (William Finch’s madhouse at Kensington House) having been detained following a disagreement with his father over money. Once free, he published, via his solicitors, a letter in The Times announcing his release. The letter was read by John Perceval, a son of prime minister Spencer Perceval. Perceval had spent three years in two of the most expensive private asylums in England, Brislington House in Bristol, run by Quaker Edward Long Fox, and Ticehurst Asylum in Sussex. His treatment had been brutal in the Brislington House; at Ticehurst the regime was more humane but his release had been delayed. Perceval contacted Paternoster and they were soon joined by several former patients and others:

  • William Bailey (an inventor and business man who had spent several years in madhouses);
  • Lewis Phillips (a glassware manufacturer who had been incarcerated in Thomas Warburton’s asylum);
  • John Parkin (a surgeon and former asylum patient);
  • Captain Richard Saumarez (whose father was the surgeon Richard Saumarez and whose two brothers were Chancery lunatics); and
  • Luke James Hansard (a philanthropist from the family of parliamentary printers).

This group was to form the core of the Alleged Lunatics’ Friend Society, although the Society would not be formally founded until 1845.

The group began their campaign by sending letters to the press, lobbying Members of Parliament (MPs) and government officials, and publishing pamphlets. John Perceval was elected to the Board of Poor Law Guardians in the parish of Kensington (although he was opposed to the New Poor Law) and was able to join magistrates on their visits of inspection to asylums. Richard Paternoster and Lewis Phillips brought court cases against the people who had incarcerated them. John Perceval published two books about his experience. Richard Paternoster wrote a series of articles for The Satirist magazine; these were published in 1841 as a book called The Madhouse System.

Formation

On 07 July 1845, Richard Paternoster, John Perceval and a number of others formed the Alleged Lunatics’ Friend Society. A pamphlet published in March the following year set out the aims with which the Society was founded:

At a meeting of several Gentlemen feeling deeply interested in behalf of their fellow-creatures, subjected to confinement as lunatic patients.

It was unanimously resolved:… That this Society is formed for the protection of the British subject from unjust confinement, on the grounds of mental derangement, and for the redress of persons so confined; also for the protection of all persons confined as lunatic patients from cruel and improper treatment. That this Society will receive applications from persons complaining of being unjustly treated, or from their friends, aid them in obtaining legal advice, and otherwise assist and afford them all proper protection.

That the Society will endeavour to procure a reform in the laws and treatment affecting the arrest, detention, and release of persons treated as of unsound mind…

John Perceval was listed as the honorary secretary, Luke James Hansard as treasurer, and Henry F. Richardson as honorary solicitor (Gilbert Bolden would later become the Society’s lawyer). Sixteen vice-presidents included both Tory and Liberal MPs; notable amongst them was the radical MP for Finsbury, Thomas Duncombe. New legislation, championed by Lord Ashley, was being introduced in parliament (the Lunacy Act 1845 and County Asylums Act 1845) and the creation of a formal society put the group in a better position to influence legislators. Four days after the Society was founded Thomas Duncombe spoke in the House of Commons, arguing for the postponement of new legislation pending a select committee of inquiry, and detailing a number of cases of wrongful confinement that had come to the Society’s attention. The legislation however went ahead, and the Society would have to wait until 1859 for an inquiry, although the Society’s supporters in parliament managed to secure a number of clauses to safeguard patients in the 1845 Act.

Although the Society had influential supporters such as Thomas Duncombe and Thomas Wakley (surgeon, radical MP for Finsbury and coroner), they did not gain widespread public support, probably never having more than sixty members and relying upon their own money for funding. A critical article in The Times of 1846 revealed the views and prejudices that the Society would have to counter:

“We can scarcely understand what such a society can propose to accomplish… There have been, no doubt, many cases of grievous oppression in which actual lunatics have been treated with cruelty, and those who are only alleged to be insane have been most unlawfully imprisoned… These, however, are evils to be checked by the law and not tampered with… by a body of private individuals… Some of the names we have seen announced suggest to us the possibility that the promoters of this scheme are not altogether free from motives of self-preservation. There is no objection to a set of gentlemen joining together in this manner for their own protection… but we think they should be satisfied to take care of themselves, without tendering their services to all who happen to be in the same position.”

John Perceval replied that the law afforded patients insufficient protection, and that the Society existed to give legal advice to individuals and draw the government’s attention to abuses as well as to encourage a more general discussion about the nature of insanity. In response to the article’s reference to the fact that several members of the Society had been patients in asylums, Perceval had this to say:

“I would remind the writer of that article, that men are worthy of confidence in the province of their own experience, and as the wisest and best of mankind hold the tenure of their health and reasoning faculties on the will of an Inscrutable Providence, and great wits to madness are allied, he will do well to consider that their fate may be his own, and to assist them in saving others in future from like injustice and cruelties, which the ignorance of the fondest relations may expose patients to, as well as the malice of their enemies.”

Social worker Nicholas Hervey, who has written the most extensive history of the Alleged Lunatics’ Friend Society, suggested that a number of factors may have contributed to the lack of wider public support, namely: alignment with radical political circles; endorsement of localist views, rather than support of the Lunacy Commission’s centralism; fearless exposure of upper-class sensibilities regarding privacy on matters concerning insanity, thus alienating wealthy potential supporters; attacks on the new forms of moral treatment in asylums (what John Perceval referred to as “repression by mildness and coaxing”).

Achievements

As well as lobbying parliament and campaigning through the media and public meetings, during the next twenty years or so the Society took up the cases of at least seventy patients, including he following examples:

  • Dr Edward Peithman was a German tutor who had been falsely imprisoned in Bethlem Hospital for fourteen years after he had tried to gain access to Prince Albert.
    • John Perceval took up his case and, after the Commissioners in Lunacy released him in February 1854, took him home with him to Herne Bay.
    • Dr Peithman promptly tried to speak to Prince Albert again, and was committed to Hanwell Asylum.
    • Again Perceval obtained his release, this time escorting him back to Germany.
  • Jane Bright was a member of a wealthy Leicestershire family, the Brights of Skeffington Hall.
    • She was seduced by a doctor who took most of her money and left her pregnant. Soon after the birth of her child, her brothers had her committed to Northampton Hospital.
    • On her release she enlisted Gilbert Bolden, the Society’s solicitor, to help her recover the remains of her fortune from her family.
  • Anne Tottenham was a Chancery lunatic who was removed from the garden of Effra Hall Asylum in Brixton by Admiral Saumarez.
    • This course of action was a rare exception to the Society’s more usual rule of following legal routes to secure the release of patients who had been wrongly confined.
  • Charles Verity was serving a two-year prison sentence when he was transferred to Northampton Hospital. He contacted John Perceval in 1857 about abuses in the refractory ward and the Society secured an inquiry.
    • The Commissioners in Lunacy reported in 1858 that charges of cruelty and ill-usage had been established against attendants and the culprits had been dismissed.

Not all the Society’s cases were successful:

  • James Hill (father of Octavia Hill) was a Wisbech corn merchant, banker, proprietor of the newspaper the Star of the East and founder of the United Advancement Society.
    • He had been declared bankrupt and had been committed to Kensington House Asylum.
    • After his release in 1851 the Society helped him sue the proprietor of Kensington House, Dr Francis Philps, for wrongful confinement but the case was unsuccessful.
  • Captain Arthur Childe, son of William Lacon Childe, MP, of Kinlet Hall in Shropshire, was a Chancery lunatic who had been found to be of unsound mind by a lunacy inquisition in 1854.
    • The Society applied on his behalf for another lunacy inquisition in 1855, claiming he was now of sound mind.
    • The Society was unsuccessful; the jury found Captain Childe to be of unsound mind and there was a quarrel about costs.

The Society was successful in drawing attention to abuses in a number of asylums. Notable amongst these was Bethlem Hospital, which, as a charitable institution, had been exempt from inspection under the 1845 Lunacy Act. The help of the Society was enlisted by patients and they persuaded the home secretary to allow the Commissioners in Lunacy to inspect the asylum. The Commissioner’s critical report in 1852 led to reforms. Together with magistrate Purnell Bransby Purnell, the Society ran a campaign to expose abuses in asylums in Gloucestershire.

One of the aims of the Society had always been to persuade parliament to conduct a committee of inquiry into the lunacy laws. This, after numerous petitions, they finally achieved in 1859. John Perceval, Admiral Saumarez, Gilbert Bolden and Anne Tottenham (a patient they had rescued from Effra House Asylum) gave evidence to the committee. The results were disappointing; the committee made a number of recommendations in their 1860 report but these were not put into place.

Legacy

The Society’s activities appear to have come to an end in 1860s. Admiral Saumarez died in 1866, and Gilbert Bolden had a young family and moved to Birmingham. In 1862 John Perceval wrote a letter to the magazine John Bull:

“I am sorry to say that this Society is so little supported, in spite of the great good it has done, and is in consequence so entirely disorganised, that I have repeatedly proposed to the committee that we should agree to a dissolution of it, and I have only consented to continue acting with them, and to lend my name to what is rather a myth than a reality, from their representation that however insignificant we were, we had still been able to effect a great deal of good, and might still be further successful…”

Nicholas Hervey concluded:

“The Society’s importance lies in the wide panorama of ideas it laid before Shaftesbury’s Board. Unrestrained by the traditions of bureaucratic office, it was free to explore a variety of alternatives for care of the insane, many of which were too visionary or impolitic to stand a chance of implementation. The difficulty it faced was the blinkered perspective of the Commission and of Shaftesbury in particular… it would not be an exaggeration of the Society’s worth to say that patients’ rights, asylum care, and medical accountability all suffered with its demise in the 1860s.”

The cause for lunacy law reform was taken up by Louisa Lowe’s Lunacy Law Reform Association, whose aims were very similar to those of the Alleged Lunatics’ Friend Society. In more recent years the Society has been recognised as a pioneer of advocacy and the psychiatric survivors movement.

On This Day … 11 June

People (Births)

  • 1914 – Jan Hendrik van den Berg, Dutch psychiatrist and academic (d. 2012).

People (Deaths)

  • 1934 – Lev Vygotsky, Belarusian-Russian psychologist and theorist (b. 1896).

Jan Hendrik van den Berg

Jan Hendrik van den Berg (11 June 1914 to 22 September 2012) was a Dutch psychiatrist notable for his work in phenomenological psychotherapy (cf. phenomenology) and metabletics, or “psychology of historical change.” He is the author of numerous articles and books, including A different existence and The changing nature of man.

Between 1933 and 1936, he earned diplomas in primary school and high school education, the latter with a focus on mathematics. He also published papers on entomology. He then entered medical school at Utrecht University specialising in psychiatry and neurology. He completed his doctoral dissertation in 1946. One year later, after studying in both France and Switzerland, Dr. Van den Berg was appointed to Head of Department at the psychiatry clinic at Utrecht. At Utrecht, he lectured in psychopathology in the medical school and was also appointed to Professor of Pastoral Psychology in the theology department. In 1954, Dr. van den Berg took a position of Professor of Psychology at Leiden University. Since 1967, he has been a visiting professor at many universities and conducted lecture tours internationally.

Having lived most of his later life in a monumental house at the market in the historical centre of Woudrichem, he died in nearby Gorinchem.

Lev Vygotsky

Lev Semyonovich Vygotsky (Russian: Лев Семёнович Выго́тский; Belarusian: Леў Сямёнавіч Выго́цкі; 17 November 1896 to 11 June 1934) was a Soviet psychologist, known for his work on psychological development in children. He published on a diverse range of subjects, and from multiple views as his perspective changed over the years. Among his students was Alexander Luria.

He is known for his concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD): the distance between what a student (apprentice, new employee, etc.) can do on their own, and what they can accomplish with the support of someone more knowledgeable about the activity. Vygotsky saw the ZPD as a measure of skills that are in the process of maturing, as supplement to measures of development that only look at a learner’s independent ability.

Also influential are his works on the relationship between language and thought, the development of language, and a general theory of development through actions and relationships in a socio-cultural environment.

Vygotsky is the subject of great scholarly dispute. There is a group of scholars who see parts of Vygotsky’s current legacy as distortions and who are going back to Vygotsky’s manuscripts in an attempt to make Vygotsky’s legacy more true to his actual ideas.

What was the Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane?

Introduction

The Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane (also called the Land-Grant Bill For Indigent Insane Persons, formally the bill “Making a grant of public lands to the several States for the benefit of indigent insane persons”) was proposed legislation that would have established asylums for the indigent insane, and also blind, deaf, and dumb, via federal land grants to the states.

Background

The bill was the signature initiative of activist Dorothea Dix, and passed both houses of Congress in 1854. However, it was vetoed on 03 May 1854 by President Franklin Pierce, the first of his nine vetoes. Pierce argued that the federal government should not commit itself to social welfare, which he believed was properly the responsibility of the states.

The main provision of the bill was to set aside 12,225,000 acres (49,473 km2) of federal land: 10,000,000 acres (40,469 km2) for the benefit of the insane, and the remainder to be sold for the benefit of the “blind, deaf, and dumb”, with proceeds distributed to the states to build and maintain asylums.

The initial request, on 23 June 1848, had been for five million acres (20,000 km2), which was subsequently expanded.

Context and Legacy

The bill was part of the first wave of public mental health initiatives in the United States, which saw the establishment of asylums.

The bill is seen as a landmark in social welfare legislation in the United States. Pierce’s veto established a precedent for federal non-participation in social welfare that lasted over 70 years, until the emergency legislation and New Deal of the 1930s Great Depression. Compare instead the county institution of the poor farm.

No further federal legislation on mental health occurred for over 90 years until 1946 when the National Mental Health Act was passed, establishing federal mental health policy.