Darwin on insanity, 1872

Darwin on insanity, 1872

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Darwin on insanity. Photograph of a mad woman to 'show the condition of her hair', from 'The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals' (1872) by British naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-1882). The original toning of the old page, and the show through of text has been left, adding to this melancholy image of madness and hair, with an apparent shadow of wings. Darwin wrote that: 'Dr Brown has sent me photographs of two women taken in the intervals between their paroxysms, and he adds with respect to one of the women 'that the state of her hair is a sure and convenient criterion of her mental condition'. I have had one of these photographs copied and the engraving gives, if viewed from a little distance, a faithful representation of the original'. Darwin saw the bristling of the hair as related to the aggressive or fearful raising of hackles in animals like dogs or cats.

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