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Dr Lauder Lindsay's lemmings: mad beasts and misanthropy in a Victorian asylum

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If you read the DNB entry on William Lauder Lindsay, you might be forgiven for concluding that the high point of this Scottish physician’s career was his Memoir on the Spermogones and Pycnides of Lichens, published in 1870. But in Mind in the Lower Animals in Health and Disease, written at the end of his life in 1879, Lindsay ranged across continents and millennia, pillaging writers from Pliny to Darwin and ushering his readers into a dark, destabilised world of simian neurosis and reptilian psychosis, suicidal scorpions and deranged, Prufockian lemmings. In this talk I want to grab Mind in the Lower Animals by its provocatively twitching tail. I will argue that Lindsay’s sentimental anthropomorphism, and his engagement with both evolutionary theory and Spiritualism, marked him out as distinctively Victorian, responding to the hopes and anxieties of the British nineteenth century.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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