HSTM Seminar Series: 1 February 2023

Speaker: Rebecca Watterson, MA, BA (Hons), AFHEA, Ulster University, ‘Hiding in Plain Sight – Psychosurgery in 1960s Britain’ and Shelby Zimmerman, Trinity College Dublin, ‘’The Dublin Workhouses’ Involvement in the Anatomy Trade, 1872-1920.’ 

Place: Online

Date and time: 1 February 2023, 15.00-16.00 hrs (GMT)

To register please follow this link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/history-of-science-technology-and-medicine-seminar-1-feb-2022-tickets-511837869847 


Abstracts: 

Rebecca Watterson, MA, BA (Hons), AFHEA, Ulster University, ‘Hiding in Plain Sight – Psychosurgery in 1960s Britain’. 

British psychosurgical historiography invites the belief that following the advent of chlorpromazine in the 1950s, there was a significant decline in the use of these surgeries for mental illness, with them essentially ending in the 1960s. Belief in this decline was perpetuated by a significant decrease in related academic publications when the field went virtually silent. However, during this decade, significant research and experimentation were carried out in the UK, influenced by neurological and technological developments. These presented new opportunities for psychosurgery, which were capitalised on in the 1960s and beyond. To fully understand this period of silence and the psychosurgical activities that were taking place in this decade, we must understand reactions from within this discipline to antipsychiatry and emergent counterculture discourse. This paper will examine the experimental work of Geoffrey Knight, a British neurosurgeon who carried out significant research relating to treatment by frontal leucotomy for depression and schizophrenia during the 1960s. This decade saw a redesign of psychosurgery to appear more scientific, technologically improved, and applicable to more diagnoses. This paper suggests that per head of population in the UK, there were more procedures taking place than in the US during the 1960s. So despite a decline in surgeries compared to earlier decades, psychosurgery was continuing, hiding in plain sight.

Shelby Zimmerman, Trinity College Dublin, ‘’The Dublin Workhouses’ Involvement in the Anatomy Trade, 1872-1920.’ 

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the workhouse functioned as a prominent contributor in Dublin’s anatomical trade. Under the Anatomy Act of 1832, public institutions were authorised to sell the bodies of unclaimed patients and inmates to the medical schools for dissection. Using the South Dublin Union as a case study, this talk will analyse who was sent for dissection under the Anatomy Act and how the workhouse contributed to medical education. It will use case studies to demonstrate how the Anatomy Act functioned and what happened in cases of misconduct. 

Speaker Biographies: 

Rebecca is a PhD Researcher in History at Ulster University. Her research focuses on psychosurgery in the UK between the years 1940-1986. Her MA research examined why the enzyme, cholinesterase, was a major focus of psychiatric medical research in the UK during the 1950s. For this work, she was awarded ‘The Birley Prize for the best MA thesis in social history 2020’. She is also the book review editor assistant for the journal, Social History of Medicine, and a researcher for the podcast, Epidemic Belfast. She is also History Lab Plus’s Regional Ambassador for Northern Ireland. 

Shelby Zimmerman is a PhD candidate at Trinity College Dublin studying the medicalisation of death in the Dublin city workhouses from 1872 to 1920 centring on the role the workhouse played in Dublin’s medical landscape for the sick and dying poor. She is primarily interested in the history of medicine, institutions, the Irish Poor Law, poverty, and death. She received her BS in History and Museum Studies from Towson University in Maryland and her MPhil with Distinction from Trinity College Dublin in Modern Irish History. Her MPhil thesis examined how the South Dublin Union workhouse responded to the Smallpox Epidemic of 1871-3. Shelby is an Early Career Researcher in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts & Humanities Research Institute and is the programme coordinator for the Trinity Medical and Health Humanities Lunchtime Seminar Series. 

To register please follow this link: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/history-of-science-technology-and-medicine-seminar-1-feb-2022-tickets-511837869847 


Take a look at the HSTM Seminar Series Programme

Seminar Convenor 2022-23: Dr Adrian Kirwan

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