“It is also useful to remember that there will always be casualties, and mysteries, and to remember the dying cry of the lost Jekyll (for in the end, he was both) to have mercy—and to know that breaking through a door does not necessarily mean that a mystery is solved.”

One of the most affecting displays in the BRAINS exhibition (at what was formerly called MoSI) was a dissected brain of an asylum inmate showing the cerebral malformation caused by advanced stages of syphilis. It’s the sad and disturbing thought of the internal suffering being evidenced only after death, and receiving mostly judgement during of life, I guess.

Then there’s the gendered/othered aspect – the sex workers condemned for surviving a depraved society riddled with violent prejudices and bigotries; the respectable wives condemned for believing the falsehood of Victorian chivalry… all easy enough to lock away in asylums.

Anyway.

‘Extraordinarily arduous and fraught with danger’: syphilis, Salvarsan, and general paresis of the insane is a fascinating (and very short) article on the development of diagnosis and treatment of syphilis which does make me think about how even medical cures can become as effective disguises for the social malady as the prison.

Laura Bassi

Laura Bassi – Italian 18th century woman physicist

It’s always fascinating reading about women scientists, philosophers and academics of the past. My usual sphere of interest is Medieval Europe, but I enjoy reading about figures from the Enlightenment era, especially those outside of the usual trio of Britain, France and Germany.