Rare Psychiatric Disorders
This 1856 photograph is one of the earliest to depict a phrenologist at work. What's phrenology? It's the foundation for many of the principles that are seen in modern psychiatry and neurology today. Phrenologists believed the shape of the brain was an indicator of mental capacity, and that different portions of the brain controlled different parts of the body. Simply by feeling bumps on the skull, a phrenologist would conclude information about a person's character, intelligence, and whether or not they lacked a certain personality trait.
Credit: Dr. Stanley B. Burns
Many soldiers in the American Civil War suffered head injuries that resulted in mental disorders - everything from serious dementia to personality changes. This devastation ultimately paved the way for medical advances in neurology.
This photo shows a 21-year-old corporal who was shot in the head at the Battle of Farmville in 1865, shortly before the South surrendered in the Civil War. Years after he was discharged, his physician noted, "He has many symptoms of disturbance to the brain."
This 1860s photograph shows a ward for non-violent women at the West Riding Asylum in Wakefield, England. Most of these patients had terminal dementia. The bonnet these women are wearing was common for female psychiatric patients at this time.
Famed biologist Charles Darwin took his knowledge of facial expressions in the animal kingdom and tried to apply it to humans, examining whether visual markers could identify mental conditions.
This photo is taken from the 1872 book by Charles Darwin called "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals." In his text, he described how this man's muscle contractions display terror and great mental distress.
One of the most recognized physicians of his day, Dr. John Shaw Billings created the predecessor to the National Library of Medicine - an accomplishment that overshadowed his groundbreaking work in cranial photography.
This 1885 photograph shows Billings photographing a skull that's submerged in a tank of water to measure its cranial capacity, which was thought to influence mental conditions. Billings and his assistant had to act fast - if the skull was submerged for more than 45 seconds, it would absorb too much water and expand, providing an inaccurate measurement.
Scientists thought they could determine intelligence, human ability, and even criminality by measuring the skull.
This image taken from German neuropsychiatrist Georg Konrad Rieger's 1885 craniology textbook illustrates how to properly measure a skull.
If scientists believed they could determine a person's criminality by measuring his head, surely the next step would be to open it up. This 1904 photograph by Argentinian physician Dr. F. Perez shows a section of an executed criminal's brain. Unfortunately, his work merited little results - he found no major differences between the brains of criminals and non-criminals.