A history of psychology through objects

This is an early Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) machine, from 1945.

Note the incorporation of the telephone dial for controvoling the duration of the shock.

This is a brass observation hole from St. Audry’s Hospital, Suffolk, England, 1851-1900.

Mounted in a door, this peephole allowed doctors and warders to check on a patient locked in solitary confinement.

These, and hundreds of other fascinating objects from the history of psychology and psychiatry, can be seen at the Science Museum’s Brought To Life website. Scroll down to Themes -> Mental Health and Illness for these examples, but keep yours eyes open throughout the exhibit for artifacts which reflect our changing and complex understanding of the mind and its disorders.

While you’re there, don’t miss the interactive Three Psychiatric tests which gives you a chance to see how psychiatrists from the 1930s, 40s and 50s would have used classic psychometric tests to diagnose mental illnesses such as dementia or schizophrenia.

Thanks to Philip Loring, BPS Curator of Psychology at the Science Museum, who gave a talk about this digital exhibition Sheffield last night

4 Comments

  1. Posted April 1, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Horrifying.

  2. Posted April 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/when-we-grow-this-is-what-we-can-do/

    Vaughn — how about a psychology history blog post through the lens of cannabis?

  3. Emmy
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    That’s facinating. My first reaction is, wow, the objects sure were better quality back then. The anesthesia machine is pretty.

    These days everything’s cheap materials, designed to break and need replacement parts. In the vet surgery rooms you don’t even need sleep aids because of all the leaky isoflurane machines.

  4. Dr Gary Morgan
    Posted April 2, 2011 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    What does “controvoling”? I can’t find a definition of it and suspect it’s a type. However, it’s a lovely word and should exist :-)


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