Sir James Crichton-Browne (1840-1938): Pioneer neuroscientist and scientific dropout
Having qualified in Edinburgh in 1861, James Crichton-Browne was appointed superintendent of the West Riding Lunatic Asylum at Wakefield in Yorkshire at the age of 26 years. During his ten years in that post he transformed the asylum into a hospital and a research centre. The six volumes of the West Riding Lunatic Asylum Reports (1871-6) with their 80 seminal monographs by himself and others, including Hughlings Jackson, David Ferrier, Clifford Allbutt, Lauder Brunton, etc., covered neuro-anatomy, neuro-physiology, neuro-pathology, clinical methods and therapeutics, and animal experiments.
At age 36 years, in 1876, he obtained the lucrative post of ‘Lord Chancellor’s Visitor in Lunacy,’ which allowed him other activities such as becoming one of the four founder editors of Brain in 1878, a post he held for its first ten years. He continued as ‘Visitor’ into his eighties and as a writer on medico-social and literary matters until he died aged 97 years.
Symposium I: 18th and 19th Century Edinburgh Neuroscience
Tenth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the
History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and
St. Andrews, Scotland, 2005