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Book and Media Reviews
December 27, 2006

Psychiatry, Photographic History

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2006;296(24):2973-2977. doi:10.1001/jama.296.24.2973

Patients and Promise is a fascinating set illustrating the history of mental health through photography. Compiler Stanley B. Burns finds that “Visual evidence is the strongest and most memorable of historic documents” (vol 2, p 15). Dr Burns uses photographs to highlight major American psychiatric movements of the early 19th and 20th centuries (photography was invented in the 1830s), eg, phrenology, physiognomy, moral treatment in hospitals, and “modern” therapies. Extensive text opposite each photograph puts the plate in historical context and discusses the theories and practices of neurology and psychiatry at the time of the exposure. The volumes can be read as a set or separately, as each contains the same preface with an overarching introduction.

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