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Title: The West Riding Lunatic Asylum and the making of the modern brain sciences in the nineteenth century
Author: Finn, Michael Anthony
ISNI:       0000 0004 2732 3408
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2012
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In the final third of the nineteenth century, British asylums were backwaters. Custodians of the insane but curative failures, they lagged far behind the successes of their Continental counterparts and colleagues in other branches of medicine. Yet between 1866 and 1876, a British asylum – the West Riding Lunatic Asylum, under the direction of James Crichton-Browne – became one of the most active and important centres of scientific research in the world. This thesis is about that asylum – long recognised but little studied until now – and its pivotal role in the development of the modern sciences of mind and brain in Victorian Britain. Drawing on a wealth of published and archival sources, the thesis reconstructs the working practices of the asylum, explaining the intellectual and institutional background to its activities and describing its legacy in the field of medical science. In doing so, four new points are made. Firstly, it is argued that, through Crichton-Browne, the discredited ideas of phrenology had a more tangible link with the modern brain sciences than has previously been recognised. Secondly, it is explained how and why the ostensibly unpromising site of a Victorian asylum was made into a flourishing school of research. Thirdly, it is shown how the novel doctrine of cerebral localisation – the theory of localised brain functions – came to be fundamentally associated with the asylum’s programme of study. And fourthly, it is contended that the disciplinary split which occurred between neurology and psychiatry in the late nineteenth century was a legacy of the asylum’s work.
Supervisor: Radick, G. ; Wilson, A. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available