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Genetics in the Madhouse: The Unknown History of Human Heredity

3.36  ·  Rating details ·  36 ratings  ·  6 reviews
The untold story of how hereditary data in mental hospitals gave rise to the science of human heredity

In the early 1800s, a century before there was any concept of the gene, physicians in insane asylums began to record causes of madness in their admission books. Almost from the beginning, they pointed to heredity as the most important of these causes. As doctors and state
Hardcover, 464 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Princeton University Press
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Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dense with information and decidedly academic in tone, the history is nevertheless fascinating and the author has a way with language that I appreciated. Too often, the history of science is presented as a series of critical experiments and theoretical Eureka moments. This history follows the science of human heredity as the tools for collecting, storing and analyzing data are developed, beginning well before Darwin or Mendel came on the scene.
The Inquisitive Biologist
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Genetics in the Madhouse delves deep into the asylum archives and tells how this little-known chapter of history was important to the study of human heredity. See my full review at ...more
Monica Willyard Moen
I was fairly disappointed after reading this book. The title and description made it seem as if it would be written for both professionals and members of the general public. Instead, it is written in a very dry, formal, cold manner with a great deal of foreign language references, footnotes, and other things that made reading the narrative very difficult. The book is primarily a listing of various alienists and their logs about heredity with insanity as well as tracking alcohol and masturbation ...more
Briana Wipf
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating. Porter gets a little in the weeds and loses focus when he discusses the different statisticians and doctors involved. The ending was dissatisfying and focuses only on the buildup to the Nazis' eugenics program. I wonder if his publisher made him tack that on to make it more interesting to readers?
Oct 15, 2018 rated it liked it
I had a lot of trouble staying engaged with this book.
Jul 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A bit plodding at times; but a fascinating look into the sordid past of Genetics (and our collective willingness to give 'family' the blame or credit for so many things... ).
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