Journal Mobile

A Beveridge
Journal Issue: 
Volume 48: Issue 3: 2018




Sir Alexander Morison’s The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases and the original art work that formed the basis of the book have not had the scholarly attention they deserve. The published book and the commissioned portraits have not been studied in any detail. Historians have tended to offer cursory assessments that have reflected their own preconceived ideas rather than properly engaging with the material. This is a pity because Morison’s work is a rich source that tells us much about the history of psychiatry. The pictures and text give us a glimpse into the world of the asylum and that of the patient. Although we see the patient through the eyes of the artist and Dr Morison, they do emerge as individuals. The accompanying texts reflect the psychiatric approach of the time and reveal contemporary notions of diagnosis, aetiology and treatment. Morison’s work can also be located in the history of ideas about physiognomy. He himself was particularly influenced by Jean-Étienne-Dominique Esquirol, and Morison’s work, in turn, influenced WAF Browne. These papers will outline Morison’s career and consider in detail his book on The Physiognomy of Mental Diseases