"On the matter of the soul": concepts of body and soul in the Zürich "Brain Psychiatry"

C. Jagella
Medizinhistorisches Institut, Zürich, Switzerland

In the last third of the 19th century successful localisation of cerebral functions revived the ages-old discussion on the relationship of the soul and/or the mind with the body. Eduard Hitzig demonstrated the electrical stimulation of the cerebral cortex in 1870, together with Gustav Theodor Fritsch, and he defined the limits of the motor cortex in animals in 1874. From 1875 to 1879 he was the third director of the Zürich psychiatric hospital Burghölzli. In 1886 he published a short tract entitled Von dem Materiellen der Seele (On the matter of the soul). The contents were less revolutionary than the concepts of his colleagues Forel, Monakow, Eugen Bleuler and Adolf Meyer in Zürich who defied the limits traditionally imposed on solutions for the mind-body problem. Hitzig accepted the famous saying of Emil DuBois-Reymond: "ignorabimus", we shall never know the details of this relationship. Comparing Hitzig's views with the concepts of the former authors shows that this whole cluster of highly theoretical and philosophical ideas was crucial and central for the Zürich "Brain psychiatry" which later developed into American psychiatry and psychobiology.


Session III
Friday, 20 June 1997, 15.00 - 15.20

Second Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and 6th Meeting of the European Club on the History of Neurology (ECHN)

Leiden, The Netherlands