Skip to main content

Drawing as Instrument, Drawings as Evidence: Capturing Mental Processes with Pencil and Paper

  • Alicia Puglionesi

Researchers in the mind sciences often look to the production and analysis of drawings to reveal the mental processes of their subjects. This essay presents three episodes that trace the emergence of drawing as an instrumental practice in the study of the mind. Between 1880 and 1930, drawings gained currency as a form of scientific evidence – as stable, reproducible signals from a hidden interior. I begin with the use of drawings as data in the child study movement, move to the telepathic transmission of drawings in psychical research and conclude with the development of drawing as an experimental and diagnostic tool for studying neurological impairment. Despite significant shifts in the theoretical and disciplinary organisation of the mind sciences in the early twentieth century, researchers attempted to stabilise the use of subject-generated drawings as evidence by controlling the contexts in which drawings were produced and reproduced, and crafting subjects whose interiority could be effectively circumscribed. While movements such as psychoanalysis and art therapy would embrace the narrative interpretation of patient art, neuropsychology continued to utilise drawings as material traces of cognitive functions.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Drawing as Instrument, Drawings as Evidence: Capturing Mental Processes with Pencil and Paper
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Drawing as Instrument, Drawings as Evidence: Capturing Mental Processes with Pencil and Paper
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Drawing as Instrument, Drawings as Evidence: Capturing Mental Processes with Pencil and Paper
      Available formats
Corresponding author
*Email address for correspondence:
Hide All

1. Ludmilla Jordanova emphasises the historian’s role in re-integrating visual objects with individual experience and social practices; this paper applies aspects of her methodological approach to the history of the behavioural sciences. Ludmilla Jordanova, The Look of the Past: Visual and Material Evidence in Historical Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 4–6.

2. John Cerullo describes one major transition, from metaphysical to secular notions of selfhood, in The Secularization of the Soul: Psychical Research in Modern Britain (Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1982). Henri Ellenberger’s The Discovery of the Unconscious: The History and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry (New York: Basic Books, 1970) argues for stronger continuities in this period than previously supposed, but still describes major transformations such as those entailed in Freud’s break from ‘official medicine’. For changes in the professional organisation of the mind sciences, see: Kurt Danziger, Constructing the Subject: Historical Origins of Psychological Research (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994); Deborah Coon, ‘Standardizing the Subject: Experimental Psychologists, Introspection, and the Quest for a Technoscientific Ideal’, Technology and culture, 34, 4 (1993), 757–83; Coon, ‘Testing the Limits of Sense and Science: American Experimental Psychologists Combat Spiritualism, 1880–920’, American Psychologist, 47, 2 (1992), 143–51; and David E. Leary, ‘Telling Likely Stories: The Rhetoric of the New Psychology, 1880–920’, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 23, 4 (1987), 315–31. While acknowledging the distinction between ‘tools’ and ‘instruments’ observed by Gilbert Simondon, I follow Christoph Hoffmann and Barbara Wittmann in using these terms as equivalents for the purposes of this discussion. The entangled connotations of tool and instrument belong to the larger continuum of mind, body, apparatus and evidence that this paper examines. Christoph Hoffmann and Barbara Wittmann, ‘Introduction: Knowledge in the Making: Drawing and Writing as Research Techniques’, Science in Context, 26 (2013), 203–13.

3. Danziger, ibid., 16–18.

4. In this paper, I focus on the contrast noted by researchers between the ephemerality of speech and the fixity of drawings on paper. This presumes a more basic distinction between language and images as modes of representation and as tools of psychological investigation, but this distinction proves permeable in many cases, including those described here. For instance, historical and psychological literature on automatic writing tends to focus on the content of written messages rather than their visual form, which sometimes combined letters, symbols and images. Automatic writing is addressed in Wilma Koutstaal, ‘Skirting the Abyss: A History of Experimental Explorations of Automatic Writing in Psychology’, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 28, 1 (2006), 5–27; and Jill Nicole Galvan, The Sympathetic Medium: Feminine Channeling, the Occult, and Communication Technologies, 1859–1919 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010). Stephan Kammer discusses graphology in ‘Symptome der Individualität. Das Wissen vom Schreiben (1880–910)’, in Barbara Wittmann (ed.), Spuren erzeugen. Zeichnen und Schreiben als Verfahren der Selbstaufzeichnung, (Zürich, Berlin: Diaphanes, 2009), 39–68; and in ‘Ereignis/Beobachtung: die Schreibszenen des Spiritismus und die Medialität des Schreibens’, in D. Giuriato, M. Stingelin and S. Zanetti (eds), Schreiben heißt: sich selber lesen’: Schreibszenen als Selbstlektüren (München: Fink), 39–66. In Line Let Loose: Scribbling, Doodling and Automatic Drawing (London: Reaktion Books, 2013), David Maclagan describes drawing as a ‘graphic language’ but distinguishes the analysis of drawings from that of words precisely because of the loose, shifting interpretive linkage between drawing and ‘conventional’ language (20–1).

5. Researchers did not agree that these laws would correspond directly with the physical properties of the brain, and thus I will speak of ‘the mind’ as their general object of inquiry. For the child study researchers and psychical investigators discussed here, the reduction of thought to particular brain regions was interesting and plausible, but not necessary to establish firm laws of human cognition. Neurologists sought to anchor cognitive functions to particular brain structures, and their case differs from the other two in this regard.

6. The ‘discovery of the unconscious’ in psychical research was a point of departure for the psychoanalytic study of unconscious imagery and the development of projective testing. For recent work linking psychical research and psychoanalytic transference, see Mikita Brottman, Phantoms of the Clinic: From Thought-Transference to Projective Identification (London: Karnac Books, 2011). Henri Ellenberger’s The Discovery Of The Unconscious: The History And Evolution Of Dynamic Psychiatry (New York: Basic Books, 1981) established the close historical relationship between psychical research and psychoanalysis. For discussion of Rorschach and projective testing, see: Naamah Akavia, Subjectivity in Motion: Life, Art, and Movement in the Work of Hermann Rorschach (Hoboken: Routledge, 2012); Rebecca Lemov, ‘X-rays of Inner Worlds: The Mid-twentieth-century American Projective Test Movement’, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 47, 3 (2011), 251–78; and Peter Galison, ‘Image of self’, in Lorraine Daston (ed.), Things that talk: Object lessons from art and science (New York: Zone Books, 2004). For a history of deceptive subjects, and of deception’s formative influence on psychology as a profession, see Michael Pettit, The Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).

7. Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, Objectivity (New York: Zone Books, 2007), especially Section III, ‘Mechanical Objectivity’, and Section IV, ‘Structural Objectivity’, 262–5. Astronomy is something of an exception to this argument in that many practitioners dealt transparently with the subjective aspects of image production. The problem of the ‘personal equation’, widely recognised in the discipline, compelled astronomers to study the psychology of perception and develop strategies to control for variation. Omar W. Nasim focuses on the use of drawing by the ‘observer-draftsmen’ of nineteenth-century nebular research in Observing by Hand: Sketching the Nebulae in the Nineteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014).

8. Discussions of visual representation in science in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries include: Luc Pauwels (ed.), Visual Cultures of Science: Rethinking Representational Practices in Knowledge Building and Science Communication (Hanover, N.H. UPNE, 2006); Renato G. Mazzolini (ed.), Non-Verbal Communication in Science prior to 1900 (Firenze: Olschki, 1993); and Bernard V. Lightman (ed.), Victorian Science in Context (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997). For the rise of scientific photography, see Jennifer Tucker, Nature Exposed: Photography as Eyewitness in Victorian Science (Baltimore: JHU Press, 2013). Jutta Schickore discusses the attempt to standardise test objects in microscopy using ‘authoritative drawings’, a practice eclipsed by the invention of mechanically produced test plates in the 1840s, in: ‘Test Objects for Microscopes’, History of Science, 47, 2 (2009), 117–45; and ‘Fixierung mikroskopischer Beobachtungen: Zeichnung, Dauerpräparat, Mikrofotografie’, in Peter Geimer (ed.), Ordnungen der Sichtbarkeit: Fotografie in Wissenschaft, Kunst und Technologie (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2002), 285–310. Nasim explores similar procedures in nebular research: observer-draughtsmen made many drawings in a gradual, repetitive, routinised process leading to the ‘final visual product’ of a scientific phenomenon. Importantly, Nasim details how these procedures were rooted in philosophy of mind rather than in a rhetoric of mechanical objectivity. See Nasim, Observing by Hand (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 123–70, 268.

9. However, see Jimena Canales’ analysis of the historiographical issues surrounding psychophysics and the personal equation in ‘Exit the Frog, Enter the Human: Physiology and Experimental Psychology in Nineteenth-Century Astronomy’, The British Journal for the History of Science, 34, 2 (2001), 174–5.

10. Daston, Lorraine and Galison, Peter, Objectivity (New York: Zone Books, 2007), 17.

11. For a study of drawing and writing by late eighteenth-century schoolchildren, see Matthew Daniel Eddy, ‘The Shape of Knowledge: Children and the Visual Culture of Literacy and Numeracy’, Science in Context, 26 (2013), 215–45. Cabinetmagazine has issued a collection of executive marginalia entitled Presidential Doodles: Two Centuries of Scribbles, Scratches, Squiggles and Scrawls from the Oval Office (New York: Basic Books, 2007).

12. Efland, Arthur, A History of Art Education: Intellectual and Social Currents in Teaching the Visual Arts (New York: Teachers College Press, 1990), 6974.

13. Ibid., 73–4.

14. See, for instance, educator William Bentley Fowle’s introduction to Louis-Benjamin Francoeur, An Introduction to Linear Drawing (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little & Wilkins, 1828), iii–iv.

15. Maclagan, op.cit. (note 4), 20–1.

16. Ibid., 21.

17. Barbara Wittmann connects child study with critical interest in ‘primitive art’ through the figure of Aby Warburg, ‘Johnny-Head-in-the-Air in America: Aby Warburg’s experiments with children’s drawings’, in New Perspectives in Iconology: Visual Studies and Anthropology (Brussels: Academic and Scientific Publishers, 2011), 120–42. A broader context for the close parallels between psychological, art historical and ethnological interest in child art appears in ‘A Neolithic Childhood: Children’s Drawings as Prehistoric Sources’, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, 63/64 (2013), 125–42. For the connection between these movements and concurrent interest in the art of the mentally ill, see: Sander Gilman, ‘The Mad Man an Artist: Medicine, History and Degenerate Art’, Journal of Contemporary History, 20, 4 (1985), 575–597; John Monroe MacGregor, The Discovery of the Art of the Insane (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989); and Hal Foster, ‘Blinded Insights: On the Modernist Reception of the Art of the Mentally Ill’, October, 97 (2001), 3–30.

18. Granville Stanley Hall, Educational Problems (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1911), 497.

19. Ibid., 497.

20. Ibid., 497.

21. Clark University (Worcester, MA), Catalogue Number (Clark University, 1896), 4.

22. Hall, op.cit. (note 18), 497; and Herman T. Lukens, ‘A Study of Children’s Drawings in the Early Years’, Pedagogical Seminary, 4 (1896), 101.

23. Lukens, op. cit. (note 22), 81.

24. Lukens, op. cit. (note 22), 81.

25. Lukens, op. cit. (note 22), 81.

26. Lukens, op. cit. (note 22), 81.

27. Lukens, op. cit. (note 22), 81.

28. Barbara Wittmann, op. cit. (note 17), 125–42: 130.

29. Lukens, op. cit. (note 22), 79–80. Maclagan’s discussion of scribbling groups the uncoordinated scribbles of children with those of ‘animal artists’, like cats and elephants and automatic writings/drawings of mediums. op. cit. (note 4), 18–9.

30. Lukens, op. cit. (note 22), 81.

31. Barbara Wittmann notes of Italian art historian Corrado Ricci that ‘in constituting the child’s drawing as an object of knowledge, he undertook an operation that caused the site of origin to fade from view and memory’, an observation that also applies to Hall and his American followers. However, their work also included closely described individual cases which hint at the sites and contexts of production. See Wittmann, op. cit. (note 17), 130.

32. Granville Stanley Hall, op. cit. (note 18), 498. See also David Hoogland Noon, ‘The Evolution of Beasts and Babies: Recapitulation, Instinct, and the Early Discourse on Child Development,’ Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 41, 4 (2005), 367–86.

33. Lukens, op. cit. (note 22), 89.

34. Lukens, op. cit. (note 22), 90–2.

35. Lukens, op. cit. (note 22), 86.

36. Martin Krampen, Children’s Drawings: Iconic Coding of the Environment (New York: Springer, 1991), 32. Barbara Wittmann has also written extensively on drawing as a tool in child psychology of the early twentieth century.

37. Kenneth B. Kidd, Freud in Oz: At the Intersections of Psychoanalysis and Children’s Literature (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011), 110–11; John R. Morss, The Biologising of Childhood: Developmental Psychology and the Darwinian Myth (Hove, U.K.; Hillsdale, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1990), 135–6; and Martin Krampen, Children’s Drawings: Iconic Coding of the Environment (New York: Springer, 1991), 33–9.

38. Morss, ibid., 135–6. It should be noted that Piaget’s developmental model was explicitly opposed to the unitary intelligence rubrics embraced by the applied branch of the discipline (cf. Danziger, op. cit. (note 40), 82).

39. Maclagan explores these comparisons in his discussion of the term ‘scribble’, used in reference to the art of children, animals and the insane in the early twentieth century. He argues that its initial negative connotations shifted with the embrace of this spontaneous, gestural aesthetic in avant garde art. Maclagan, op. cit. (note 4), 33.

40. Kurt Danziger, Naming the Mind: How Psychology Found Its Language (London: SAGE, 1997), 82.

41. Ibid., 80–2.

42. Psychologists and psychiatrists began to study the ‘art of the insane’ in the late nineteenth century, for which see John Monroe MacGregor, The Discovery of the Art of the Insane (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989). As with child study, they hoped to fit drawings into a classificatory scheme – in this case, a taxonomy of mental illnesses rather than developmental stages. However, their approach differed in its focus on the manifest and/or latent content of patient art, rather than the cognitive mechanics of image-making in a generic subject. The present article features case studies where drawing helped to objectify mental processes, but I hope to explore the related fascination with ‘pathological’ or ‘abnormal’ art in future work. For a review of this branch of psychological research through the 1930s, see the four-part series by Anne Anastasi and John P. Foley, ‘A Survey of the Literature on Artistic Behavior in the Abnormal’, in Journal of General Psychology, 25 (1941), 111–42; Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 42, 1 (1941), 3–111; Psychological Monographs, 52, 6 (1941), 1–71; and Journal of General Psychology, 25 (1941), 187–237.

43. Maclagan, op. cit. (note 4), 31.

44. Wittmann describes the influence of archaeology on the study of child art in op. cit. (note 17), 130–40. Although art historians and theorists around the turn of the century depicted child drawings as ‘artefacts’, their analogy was criticised by contemporaries since the careful preservation of context had become the central principle of professional archaeology.

45. See, for example: Leila Zenderland, Measuring Minds: Henry Herbert Goddard and the Origins of American Intelligence Testing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001); and Rebecca Lemov, World as Laboratory: Experiments with Mice, Mazes, and Men (New York: Macmillan, 2006.).

46. Lukens, op.cit. (note 22), 92.

47. Barbara Wittmann, ‘Drawing Cure: Children’s Drawings as a Psychoanalytic Instrument’, Configurations, 18 (2010), 251–72.

48. Such statistical arguments for coincidence rather than telepathy came from within the psychical research community; for instance, see Charles Sedgwick Minot, ‘Second Report on Experimental Psychology: Upon the Diagram-Tests’, Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1, 4 (1889), 302–17. A more antagonistic use of drawing as a debunking tool was Joseph Jastrow’s automatograph, a device he invented to record normal involuntary movements of the hand which he believed produced mediumistic writing and drawing phenomena. See Jastrow, ‘Further Study of Involuntary Movements II’, Popular Science Monthly, 41 (1892), 636–43.

49. Maclagan, op. cit. (note 4), 21.

50. Barry H. Wiley details the most notable acts of the late nineteenth century in Wiley, The Thought Reader Craze: Victorian Science at the Enchanted Boundary (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2012). For an account of the growing interest in psychical research among historians of science, see Andreas Sommer, ‘Psychical Research in the History and Philosophy of Science: An Introduction and Review’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 48 (2014), 38–45. Major contributions to this field include Robert Laurence Moore, In Search of White Crows: Spiritualism, Parapsychology, and American Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977); Janet Oppenheim, The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850–914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Alex Owen, The Place of Enchantment: British Occultism And the Culture of the Modern (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007); and Heather Wolffram, The Stepchildren of Science: Psychical Research and Parapsychology in Germany, 1870–939 (Amsterdam; New York: Rodopi, 2009).

51. Joseph Jastrow, Fact and Fable in Psychology (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1900), v–vi. Michael Pettit, who has written extensively on Jastrow’s career as a debunker, argues that, in addition to the trends towards rationalisation and secularisation described above, psychology owes its professional origins to the ‘economy of uncertainty’ generated by the advancement of capitalism. This context is important for understanding the preferences of psychical researchers for particular kinds of subject believed to be less psychologically capable of deception. See Pettit, The Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), 3–7: 222–7.

52. Roger Luckhurst, The Invention of Telepathy, 1870–901 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 10.

53. Among the many speculations of scientists and lay people along these lines, Mark Twain’s ‘Mental Telegraphy: A Manuscript with a History’ is notable, as are the efforts of amateur inventors such as Robert Hare and Cromwell Fleetwood Varnley to actually construct such a device. See: Twain (1891), ‘Mental Telegraphy…’ Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 95–101; Robert Hare, Experimental Investigation of the Spirit Manifestations: Demonstrating the Existence of Spirits and Their Communion with Mortals… (New York: Partridge & Brittan, 1856); and the work of Richard J. Noakes on technologies of the occult, including Noakes (1999), ‘Telegraphy Is an Occult Art: Cromwell Fleetwood Varley and the Diffusion of Electricity to the Other World’, The British Journal for the History of Science, 32, 4 (1999), 421–59.

54. Sungook Hong, Wireless: From Marconi’s Black-Box to the Audion (MIT Press, 2001), 25; and Richard Noakes, ‘The ‘world of the Infinitely Little: Connecting Physical and Psychical Realities circa 1900’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, 39, 3 (2008), 325–7.

55. Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, iiv, (1885), 111.

56. ‘Report of the Committee on Thought Transference’, PASPR 1886: 111. For the relationship between telepathy and thought transference, see Luckhurst, The Invention of Telepathy, 1870–1901 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). Although ‘telepathy’ was introduced in the psychical research literature in 1882, and could have slightly different connotations for certain actors, these terms were used interchangeably by many during the 1880s and 1890s.

57. See Peter Lamont, Extraordinary Beliefs: A Historical Approach to a Psychological Problem (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

58. For background on the rise of an experience-based, Baconian empiricism in the rhetoric of early nineteenth-century American religious movements, see Catherine L. Albanese, A Republic of Mind and Spirit: A Cultural History of American Metaphysical Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 10–13. Stage performers frequently invoked the ideals of impartial scientific inquiry, but the tactics they employed sometimes diverged from those of accepted scientific method, or stopped short to preserve ambiguity about whether their skills were natural or supernatural. On the use of scientific rhetoric in conjuring, see Sofie Lachapelle, ‘From the Stage to the Laboratory: Magicians, Psychologists, and the Science of Illusion’, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 44, 4 (2008), 320–322. For examples from the British context, see Wiley, op. cit. (note 50) and, for the American context, see Fred Nadis, Wonder Shows: Performing Science, Magic, and Religion in America (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2005), 113–78.

59. Andreas Sommer, ‘Psychical Research and the Origins of American Psychology Hugo Münsterberg, William James and Eusapia Palladino’, History of the Human Sciences, 25 (2012), 33–4; and for another example of the spiritualist press reacting to disruptive behaviour at séances, see Alex Owen, The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 66–7.

60. The problem of nervous strain on mediums was recognised by practitioners of spiritualism and mesmerism and by physicians, many of whom regarded derangement of the nervous system as a probable explanation for psychical phenomena. Alex Owen, The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Victorian England (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 145–6.

61. John Carson describes the statistical and clinical methods of nineteenth-century psychology as a means by which psychologists constituted a publicly visible object of study and asserted their authority to evaluate that object. However, in practice, clinical subjects were active agents in shaping the terms of research, in relating their internal states, and sometimes in critiquing psychologists’ conclusions. The relationship that Carson describes between Alfred Binet and the ‘great calculator’ Jaques Inaudi resembles the relationship between SPR investigators and mediums such as Smith in this regard. John Carson, ‘Minding Matter/Mattering Mind: Knowledge and the Subject in Nineteenth-Century Psychology’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 30, 3 (1999).

62. Joseph Jastrow, a stridently sceptical voice in such matters, brought spiritualist mediums and magicians into his laboratory for physiological testing; Michael Pettit characterises his interactions with mediums as ‘viciously antagonistic’, while he cooperated amiably with anti-spiritualist magicians such as Harry Kellar and Alexander Hermann. See Michael Pettit, ‘Joseph Jastrow, the Psychology of Deception, and the Racial Economy of Observation’, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 43, 2 (2007), 159–75.

63. Douglas Blackburn, ‘Thought-Reading Extraordinary’, reprinted in William F. Barrett, ‘Appendix to the Report on Thought-Reading’, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1, 1 (1882), 63.

64. Wiley, op. cit. (note 50), 110–12.

65. Blackburn, ‘Confessions of a Famous Medium–1, Story of the Great “Scientific Hoax”’, John Bull (5 December 1908), 599.

66. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research (Society for Psychical Research, 1883), 79.

67. Ibid., 80.

68. Ibid., 78.

69. Ibid., 82.

70. Ibid., 82.

71. Ibid., 82.

72. Ibid., 82.

73. Beegan argues that the rise of wood-block engraving in the early nineteenth century was related to the Victorian concern with visuality and analysis of information-rich images. Publishers advertised this as a selling point of the technology, although they initially adopted it as a cost-cutting measure. Gerry Beegan, ‘The Mechanization of the Image: Facsimile, Photography, and Fragmentation in Nineteenth-Century Wood Engraving’, Journal of Design History, 8, 4 (1995), 257–74: 257.

74. Ibid., 257.

75. Edmund Gurney et al., ‘Third Report of the Committee on Thought Transference‘, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1, 2 (1883), 165. Maclagan posits seemingly spontaneous, unpremeditated activity as a criterion for ‘automatic’ drawing in mediumship and in the art of psychiatric patients. He notes the role of performance in these settings, but ultimately accepts the appearance of fluidity as an intuitive rubric for the authenticity of ‘inspired’ art. Much the same logic inheres in the judgements of Gurney et al. – these aesthetic cues satisfied them that they had observed an automatic behaviour first hand, which was better than accepting the self-report of the medium. See Maclagan op. cit. (note 4), 82–6.

76. William Fletcher Barrett, letter to the editor, Light (30 December 1882), 592.

77. Roy, Steven Turner, In the Eye’s Mind: Vision and the Helmholtz-Hering Controversy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).

78. Gurney, op. cit. (note 75), 164.

79. Gurney, op. cit. (note 75), 163–4.

80. Gurney, op. cit. (note 75), 164.

81. Thwing, E. P., ‘English Psychologists’, The Phrenological Journal and Science of Health, 77, 5 (1883), 275.

82. For the ASPR’s main criticisms of the British Society see Charles S. Peirce’s review of Phantasms of the Living, Edmund Gurney’s reply and Peirce’s reply to Gurney, in Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1 (1884), 150–214.

83. Newcomb, Simon, ‘Address of the President’, Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1 (1886), 6385.

84. ASPR (1883), 173; Simon Newcomb, ‘Address of the President’, Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1 (1885), 77.

85. Newcomb, ibid (note 84), 75.

86. James, William, ‘Professor Newcomb’s Address before the American Society for Psychical Research’, Science, 7, 157 (1886), 123.

87. Simon Newcomb to William James, 16 February 1886, Simon Newcomb Papers, Box 6, US Library of Congress.

88. ‘Thought-transference by Means of Pictures,’ Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1 (1885), 44.

89. Circular 5, ibid., 48.

90. Op. cit. (note 88), 44.

91. Ibid., 44. For more on the tedium of card guessing, see Michael McVaugh and Seymour H. Mauskopf, ‘J.B. Rhine’s Extra-Sensory Perception and Its Background in Psychical Research’, Isis, 67, 2 (1976), 166.

92. A special issue of History of Scienceon ‘Seriality and Scientific Objects in the Nineteenth Century’, has guided my thinking on this image. See Nick Hopwood, Simon Schaffer and Jim Secord, ‘Seriality and Scientific Objects in the Nineteenth Century’, History of Science, 48, 3/4 (2010), 251–85. For the nebular hypothesis in astronomy, see Simon Schaffer, ‘The nebular hypothesis and the science of progress’, in James R. Moore (ed.), History, Humanity and Evolution: Essays for John C. Greene (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1989), 131–64: 150–1.

93. The original SPR reports and subsequent discussions generally speak of ‘mind’ rather than ‘brain’ as the locus of the ideas, words or images transmitted in thought transference. See Gurney, op. cit. (note 75), 78–97.

94. Newcomb, op. cit. (note 84), 75.

95. For instance, Harvard anatomist Charles Sedgwick Minot dismissed the Smith and Blackburn results on the basis of statistical probability, ‘unconscious preferences’, and ‘mental habit’. See Minot, ‘Open Letter Concerning Telepathy’, Proceedings of the ASPR1, 4 (1889), 547; and ‘The Psychical Comedy’, The North American Review, 160 (1895), 224–5.

96. Blackburn, Douglas, ‘Confessions of a Famous Medium II: Inadequacy of Scientific Precautions’, John Bull, (1908), 628.

97. S. Corbett, ‘The Transition Stage’, Journal of Education, 21 (1889), 237; and Philip J. Lawson, Practical Perspective Drawing (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1943), 200.

98. Gurney op. cit. (note 75), 164.

99. Some of these systems are described in Barry H. Wiley, op. cit. (note 50), 112–3. Mediums customised or elaborated on well-known strategies, using grids, memorised lists and associative methods to reproduce complex messages based on auditory or tactile codes.

100. René Warcollier, in Gardner Murphy (ed.),Experiments in Telepathy (New York, London: Harper, 1938).

101. Ibid., 17–30; see also Warcollier, in Emmanuel K. Schwartz (ed.), Mind to Mind (New York: Creative Age Press, 1948).

102. For an account of the Sinclair experiments, see Alicia Puglionesi, ‘A sufficiently unprejudiced witness’, in ‘The Astonishment of Experience: Americans and Psychical Research, 1860–1935’ (PhD dissertation, Johns Hopkins University, 2015), 280–320.

103. This section draws heavily upon L.S. Jacyna’s analysis of the construction of aphasic patients in the late nineteenth century. See Jacyna, Lost Words: Narratives of Language and the Brain, 1825–926 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000). For language that figures neurological patients as malfunctioning machinery, see, for example, Joseph Palca, ‘Insights from Broken Brains’, Science, 248, 4957 (1990), 812–14.

104. Baumann, Christian, ‘Psychic Blindness or Visual Agnosia: Early Descriptions of a Nervous Disorder’, Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, 20 (2011), 5864 (58).

105. Ibid., 58; and Heinrich Lissauer and Marianne Jackson, ‘A Case of Visual Agnosia with a Contribution to Theory’, Cognitive Neuropsychology, 5 (1988), 166.

106. Lissauer and Jackson, ibid, 166.

107. For the history of localisation debates, particularly those centred around locating language, see Anne Harrington, Medicine, Mind, and the Double Brain: a Study in Nineteenth-Century Thought and Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987). L.S. Jacyna details the influence of the ‘Paris Clinic’ style of medicine on the objectification of neurological patients in France and England in op. cit. (note 103), 38–48.

108. Harrington calls the localisation debates of the 1850s and 60s ‘a litmus test of the participants politics and ethics’, (ibid., 39); see also L.S. Jacyna, op. cit. (note 103), 12–18.

109. Such studies of contemporary brain imaging practices include: Joseph Dumit, Picturing Personhood: Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004); Nikolas S. Rose and Joelle M. Abi-Rached, Neuro: The New Brain Sciences and the Management of the Mind (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), 53–80; and Sarah D. Rijcke and Anne Beaulieu, ‘Networked neuroscience: brain scans and visual knowing at the intersection of atlases and databases’, in Catelijne Coopmans et al. (eds), Representation in Scientific Practice Revisited (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2014), 131–52. I mention this literature in part to posit a link between the computerised imaging technologies of the past twenty years and the low-tech ‘imaging’ of clinical drawing tasks which I hope to explore further in future work.

110. Martha Farah acknowledges the vicissitudes of depending on ‘natural experiments’ for new clinical material in Farah, Visual Agnosia (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004), 4–5. For instance, see Jason B. Mattingley, ‘Paterson and Zangwill’s (1944) Case of unilateral neglect: insights from 50 years of experimental inquiry’, in Chris Code et al. (eds), Classic Cases in Neuropsychology (New York: Psychology Press, 2004), 158.

111. See E. Bay, ‘Disturbances of Visual Perception and Their Examination’, Brain: A Journal of Neurology, 76 (1953), 515–50; and Morris B. Bender and Martin Feldman, ‘The So-Called ‘Visual Agnosias’, Brain, 95, 1 (1972), 173–86.

112. Sir Henry Head, Aphasia and Kindred Disorders of Speech(Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1926), 359368.

113. Jacyna, L.S., Medicine and Modernism: A Biography of Sir Henry Head (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2008), 138.

114. See also L.S. Jacyna, ‘Starting Anew: Henry Head’s Contribution to Aphasia Studies’, Journal of Neurolinguistics, 18 (2005), 327–36.

115. Mattingley, op. cit. (note 110), 158.

116. See Andrew Paterson and O.L. Zangwill, ‘Disorders of Visual Space Perception Associated with Lesions of the Right Cerebral Hemisphere’, Brain, 67, 4 (1944), 331–58.

117. Mattingley, op. cit. (note 110), 168.

118. Bay, op. cit. (note 111), 515–50; Farah, op. cit. (note 110), 3–4; and Glyn Humphreys and Jane Riddoch, To See But Not to See: A Case Study of Visual Agnosia (New York: Psychology Press, 2013), 46–48.

119. Bay, op. cit. (note 111), 534.

120. See E. Bay, O. Lauenstein and P. Cibis, ‘Ein beitrag zur Frage der Seelenblindheit–der fall Schn. von Gelb und Goldstein’, Psychiatrie, Neurologie und medizinische Psychologie, 1, 73–91; J.J. Marotta and M. Behrmann, ‘Patient Schn: Has Goldstein and Gelb’s Case Withstood the Test of Time?’ Neuropsychologia, 42 (2004), 633–38; and Joseph M. Tonkonogy and Antonio E. Puente, Localization of Clinical Syndromes in Neuropsychology and Neuroscience (New York: Springer, 2009), 26–7.

121. Tonkonogy and Puente, ibid., 27.

122. George Ettlinger, ‘Sensory Deficits in Visual Agnosia’, Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, 19 (1956), 297–307; and Glyn W. Humphreys and M. Jane Riddoch, op. cit. (note 118).

123. Humphreys and Riddoch, ibid., 7:22.

124. Ibid., 18.

125. Ibid., 19.

126. Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison, Objectivity (New York: Zone Books, 2007).

The author would like to thank the editors of this special issue and the three anonymous reviewers of this article. Thanks also to the organisers and attendees of the Debating Visual Knowledge Graduate Symposium, University of Pittsburgh (2014 October) and the 4th International Illustration Symposium: Science, Imagination, and the Illustration of Knowledge, Oxford (2013 November) for feedback on earlier iterations of this work.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Medical History
  • ISSN: 0025-7273
  • EISSN: 2048-8343
  • URL: /core/journals/medical-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed