Henry Maudsley

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Henry Maudsley
Photograph by G. Jerrard, 1881.
Born5 February 1835
Giggleswick, Yorkshire, England
Died23 January 1918 (1918-01-24) (aged 82)
Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire, England
Alma materUniversity College London
Scientific career

Henry Maudsley FRCP (5 February 1835 – 23 January 1918) was a pioneering English psychiatrist, commemorated in the Maudsley Hospital in London and in the annual Maudsley Lecture of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Life and career[edit]

Maudsley was born on an isolated farm near Giggleswick in the North Riding of Yorkshire and educated at Giggleswick School.[1] Maudsley lost his mother at an early age. His aunt cared for him, teaching him poetry which he would recite to the servants, and secured for him a top tutor and an expensive apprenticeship to University College London medical school.[2] He earned ten gold medals and graduated with an M.D. degree in 1857,[3] though is said to have avoided subjects and clinical work he found onerous and to have antagonised his teachers.[2]

Maudsley had apparently intended to pursue a career in surgery, but according to his autobiography, he changed his mind when he failed to receive a reply to his first application: it had gone to his previous address. He then decided to leave the country and work for the East India Company, although in the event he never did. It would require him first to do a stint in an asylum, and so he spent nine months at the West Riding Asylum in Wakefield, followed less happily by a shorter period at the Essex County Asylum in Brentwood.[4]

At the age of 23, Maudsley was appointed medical superintendent at the small, middle-class Manchester Royal Lunatic Asylum in Cheadle Royal. Despite being relatively inexperienced clinically and administratively, he managed to raise patient numbers and income. He returned to London in 1862, taking up residence in Queen Anne St, Cavendish Square. In 1865 he failed to gain the position of Physician to the Bethlem Royal Hospital, but succeeded at the West London Hospital.

So ended Maudsley's relatively brief period in public and charitable asylums. In the same year he was appointed co-editor of the Journal of Mental Science, an influential position he retained for 15 years.

Maudsley was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and delivered their Gulstonian Lectures in 1870 on Body and Mind. The text of Maudsley's lectures was studied carefully by Charles Darwin in the preparation of his The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). Maudsley was appointed Professor of Medical Jurisprudence at University College London from 1869 to 1879.[5]

Maudsley married John Conolly's daughter, Ann Conolly, in February 1866, and from 1866 took over the running of Conolly's private mental asylum, Lawn House, housing six wealthy women, until 1874. He then withdrew from public life and focused on writing and on an extremely lucrative and secretive private consultancy for the very wealthy, often aristocratic, in the West End of London.[6]


Maudsley acquired a reputation as an outstanding essayist on medical and literary topics. An early success was a spectacular essay on Edgar Allan Poe.[7] He made numerous contributions to the Journal of Mental Science. His position as Britain's foremost mental specialist was sealed by his acquaintance with Charles Darwin and other leading Victorian intellectuals and by his magisterial textbooks The Physiology and Pathology of Mind (1867), Body and Mind (1870) and Mental Responsibility in Health and Disease (1874). His popularity was exemplified by his influence on many novels by Rosa Nouchette Carey.[8]

Maudsley adhered to degeneration theory and believed that inherited "taints" were exaggerated through succeeding generations (Lamarckism). He argued that alcoholism was the most frequent trigger of inherited degeneracy, and that drunkenness in one generation would lead to frenzied need for drink in the second, hypochondria in the third, and idiocy in the fourth.[9][10] However, having significantly contributed to the British uptake of degeneration theory for over two decades, by the 1890s he was cautioning about it being used in a meaninglessly vague way.[11]

His views on maternity have been critiqued for displaying a "revulsion to both parturition and the care of an infant," which he claimed was an expression of the rational objective truth.[12] He was challenged even at the time for his generally negative views on women; a notable early critic was the pioneering female physician Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.[6]

Maudsley has been described as "a prime example of how the medical establishment naturalised and reinforced social divisions and hierarchies during the latter part of the 19th century."[11] He has also been described as "consistently inconsistent".[6]

Maudsley was agnostic, and as such critical of religion and reports of ostensibly supernatural phenomena. In his book Natural Causes and Supernatural Seemings (1886) he wrote that so-called supernatural experiences were disorders of the mind and simply "malobservations and misinterpretations of nature".[13] His book is seen as an early text in the field of anomalistic psychology.

Maudsley Hospital[edit]

In 1907, Maudsley collaborated with Frederick Mott, a neuropathologist, to make an offer to London County Council to found a new Maudsley Hospital, for which Maudsley donated £30,000, with the council finding another £30,000 plus. This was to be a new mental hospital that would treat early and acute cases and have an out-patient clinic. The hospital also housed teaching and research. The buildings were ready in 1915, temporarily used for war veterans, and officially opened in 1923. A special Act of Parliament had made voluntary treatment there financially possible.[14][15]

Maudsley's £30,000 has been described as an astonishingly high sum, and he still had at least £60,000 spare upon his death.[7]

A bronze bust of Maudsley overlooks the main staircase at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience next to the Maudsley Hospital.[7]

Later life[edit]

In his later years, Maudsley became something of a recluse, resigning from the Medico-Psychological Association and, in some scattered writings, expressing regret at his career choice of psychiatry. He submitted articles to the philosophy journal Mind, watched cricket matches and sent postcards.[7]

While earlier he had argued, per Bénédict Morel, that degenerate families would die out, he would begin in the 1890s to consider degeneration as a regressive force and threat to evolution and moral progress. This appears to have had a significant influence on psychiatrists such as George Alder Blumer who became at least for some time converts to eugenics.[16]

Maudsley's wife died before him, and they had no children.[17]

He appears to have destroyed his own papers and correspondence.[7]


"Mental disorders are neither more nor less than nervous diseases in which mental symptoms predominate, and their entire separation from other nervous diseases has been a sad hindrance to progress...." Henry Maudsley (1870) Body and Mind, page 41.

"Maudsley was revealed to me in a brilliant essay on Edgar Allan Poe, which....although too scathing and denunciatory....was so rich in insight....as to betoken the "lighting of another taper at Heaven," which was at that time Maudsley's way of describing the arrival of a new man of genius on the scene. A few years later I made Maudsley's personal acquaintance at the table of that gracefully-refined and highly gifted physician and philanthropist, Dr John Conolly, who afterwards became his father-in-law...." James Crichton-Browne (1920) The First Maudsley Lecture.

"A rich source of wrong beliefs is the prolific activity of imagination....by filling up voids of knowledge with fictions and theories, its quick and easy working is a striking contrast with the slow and toilsome work of observation and reasoning. Being the productive force in mind, it has, like the productive forces in nature, three marked qualities: it is prolific, it is pleasant, it is prophetic." Henry Maudsley (1886) Natural Causes and Supernatural Seemings.




See also[edit]


  1. ^ "MAUDSLEY, Henry". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. p. 1197.
  2. ^ a b On the Borderland: Henry Maudsley and Psychiatric Darwinism
  3. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWood, James, ed. (1907). "Maudsley, Henry". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne.
  4. ^ Masters of Bedlam: The Transformation of the Mad-Doctoring Trade Andrew Scull, Charlotte MacKenzie, Nicholas Hervey. Princeton University Press, 14 Jul 2014
  5. ^ Mary Elizabeth Leighton, Lisa Surridge. (2012). The Broadview Anthology of Victorian Prose, 1832–1901. Broadview Press. p. 197. ISBN 978-1551118604
  6. ^ a b c Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England, 2012
  7. ^ a b c d e Henry Maudsley – psychiatrist, philosopher and entrepreneur by Trevor Turner In Anatomy of Madness.
  8. ^ Elaine Hartnell: Carey, Rosa Nouchette 1840–1909 (1999). In: The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English.
  10. ^ Incest and Influence: The Private Life of Bourgeois England By Adam Kuper
  11. ^ a b The Cambridge Companion to the Fin de Siècle, 2007
  12. ^ The Tyranny of the Maternal Body: Madness & Maternity Susan Hogan
  13. ^ Ivan Leudar, Philip Thomas. (2000). Voices of Reason, Voices of Insanity: Studies of Verbal Hallucinations. Routledge. pp. 106–107. ISBN 978-0415147873
  14. ^ "The Maudsley Hospital, Past and Present," The Journal of Mental Science, Vol. LXVII, 1921.
  15. ^ Jones, E; Rahman, S; Woolven, R (2007). "The Maudsley Hospital: design and strategic direction, 1923-1939". Med Hist. 51 (3): 357–78. doi:10.1017/s0025727300001484. PMC 1894884. PMID 17603658.
  16. ^ Keeping America Sane: Psychiatry and Eugenics in the United States and Canada, 1880-1940
  17. ^ Bynum, W F; Porter, Roy; Shepard, Michael, eds. (1988). "Chapter 6". The Anatomy of Madness. Volume 3: The Asylum and its Psychiatry (Hardback). London, England & New York City: Routledge. ISBN 0-422-60350-3.
  18. ^ Reprinted in School-Room Classics, N°. 9, C. W. Bardeen, 1884.

Further reading[edit]

  • Collie, Michael. Henry Maudsley. Victorian Psychiatrist: A Bibliographical Study, St. Paul's Bibliographies, 1988.
  • Gilbert, Arthur N. "Masturbation and Insanity: Henry Maudsley and the Ideology of Sexual Repression," Albion: A Quarterly Journal Concerned with British Studies, Vol. 12, No. 3, 1980.
  • Johnson, J. "Henry Maudsley on Swedenborg's Messianic Psychosis," Br. J. Psychiatry, 165(5), Nov. 1994.
  • Lewis, A. Henry Maudsley: his work and Influence, in The Pathology of Mind: a Study of its Distempers, Deformities and Disorders, Julian Friedmann Publishers, 1979.
  • Mellwain, Henry. Maudsley, Mott and Mann on the Chemical Physiology and Pathology of the Mind; an Inaugural Lecture Delivered at the Institute of Psychiatry, Maudsley Hospital, London, 14 April 1955, H. K. Lewis & Co. Ltd., 1955.
  • Rollin, Henry R. "Whatever Happened to Henry Maudsley?," in 150 Years of British Psychiatry, 1841–1991, Gaskell, 1991.
  • Savage, George. “Henry Maudsley,” Journal of Mental Science, Vol. 64, 1918.
  • Scott, Peter. "Pioneers in Criminology. XI. Henry Maudsley (1835–1918)," The Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science, Vol. 46, No. 6, Mar. – Apr. 1956.
  • Shorter, E. A History of Psychiatry, John Wiley & Sons, 1997.
  • Turner, T. H. "Henry Maudsley – Psychiatrist, Philosopher and Entrepreneur," Psychol. Med., 18(3), Aug. 1988.
  • Walk, A. "Medico-Psychologists, Maudsley and the Maudsley," Journal of Mental Science, 1976.

External links[edit]