DOCTOR FORBES WINSLOW

Molly Whittington-Egan: 1-902918-06-1
Defender of the Insane

Forbes Winslow was probably the most contentious psychiatrist of his time. As a child, he was himself brought up in asylums owned by his father, and then spent a lifetime persuading the courts that crime and alcoholism were the results of mental instability.

His unwitting attempt to have a 'lunatic wife' committed to an asylum resulted in one of the most extraordinary court cases of the nineteenth century. The public notoriety it aroused earned him the displeasure of the medical establishment, which lasted even after his death.

The asylums he had managed after his father's death were removed from his care following a family feud, so his attention turned to the solving of crime by Sherlock Holmesian methods. His views on the 'Jack the Ripper' murders, with some possible manipulation of evidence, gained him further publicity, which resulted in a visit to New York and appearances as an expert defence witness in some American cases involving lunacy.

Molly Whittington-Egan's engaging and informative writing throws much light on an intriguing 'alienist' whose sympathies were with the mentally afflicted. Now that biochemical research is at the heart of modern psychiatric thinking, it is interesting to see the pre-Freudian founding fathers, such as Forbes Winslow, reaching towards genetic and organic solutions and their advocating the study of 'chemico-cerebral' pathology.


The Author

Molly Whittington-Egan read English as an Exhibitioner at Cambridge in the late 1950s. She taught English in Helsinki and for a decade was a social worker and finally Acting Head of Department at Springfield Hospital in south west London, one of the late-lamented asylums.

She then qualified as a lawyer and became a full-time writer and for twenty-five years reviewed literature and psychological matters for the Contemporary Review.

She is married to the author, Richard Whittington-Egan and sometimes collaborates with him.


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