A shrink among the shady in 1920s New York

Neurophilosophy has a wonderful profile the pioneering forensic psychiatrist and criminologist Carleton Simon who was working the street in prohibition-era New York in the 1920s and 30s.

Apparently, a minor celebrity in his day owing to a constant stream of headline-grabbing busts and scientific discoveries, he has since faded into obscurity but this excellent new piece covers his life, work and innovations.

At the forefront of the city’s efforts to keep crime under control was a man named Carleton Simon. Simon trained as a psychiatrist, but his reach extended far beyond the therapist’s couch. He became a ‘drug czar’ six decades before the term was first used, spearheading New York’s war against drug sellers and addicts. He was a socialite and a celebrity, who made a minor contribution to early forensic science by devising new methods to identify criminals. He also tried to apply his knowledge to gain insights into the workings of the criminal brain, becoming, effectively, the first neurocriminologist.

The image above is a photo of Simon with a machine he invented to photograph the blood supply network in the back of the eye, following his discovery that the network of veins is as unique as a fingerprint.

Link to excellent Neurophilosophy profile of Carleton Simon.

One thought on “A shrink among the shady in 1920s New York”

  1. Thanks a lot for the mention Vaughan – glad you liked it. I changed the title after seeing this, to ‘Neurocriminology in prohibition-era New York”, so thanks for that too.

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