Lewis Bruce, dual personality, and psychiatry in the 1890s : finding a physical explanation in epilepsy

Stanley FINGER1 ; Sara Elizabeth GEHR1 ; Alison LEWIS1 ; Robert RIEBER2

1Washington University, Psychology Department, St. Louis, MO, USA
Tel. 314-9356513, Fax. 314-9357588
262nd Street, Apt 1348, 10023 New York, N.Y., USA


The idea that dual personality is in some way related to the two hemispheres of the brain drew considerable attention during the nineteenth century, especially after cerebral dominance became accepted in the 1860s. The notion that the better educated and more verbal personality could be associated with the left hemisphere, whereas a more primitive or beast-like personality could be associated with the right, was the subject of two papers by Scottish psychiatrist Lewis C. Bruce in the 1890s. Bruce was guided by three beliefs : (a) that quality research can come out of asylums for the insane ; (b) that purely psychological theories of mental disorders have been given too much attention ; and (c) that insanity has a physical basis waiting to be discovered. After encountering three cases of dual personality and studying Jacksonian seizure disorders, Bruce felt that he had the evidence he needed to conclude that cortical epilepsy is the likely trigger for the switching from the personality of the left hemisphere to that of the right hemisphere in his cases, none of whom appeared to have hysteria.


Panel 9A   (Body-Mind)
Saturday, 18 September 1999

The Neurosciences and Psychiatry: Crossing the Boundaries

Joint Congress of the European Association for the History of Psychiatry (EAHP), the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN), and the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland, 13-18 September 1999