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British Industrial History

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James Crichton-Browne

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Sir James Crichton-Browne MD FRS FRSE (29 November 1840 – 31 January 1938)

Sir James Crichton-Browne was a leading British psychiatrist, neurologist and medical psychologist. He is known for studies on the relationship of mental illness to brain injury and for the development of public health policies in relation to mental health. Crichton-Browne's father was the asylum reformer Dr William A.F. Browne, a prominent member of the Edinburgh Phrenological Society.

Crichton-Browne edited the highly influential West Riding Lunatic Asylum Medical Reports (six volumes, 1871–76). He was one of Charles Darwin's major collaborators – on The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) – and, like Duchenne de Boulogne and Hugh Welch Diamond, was a pioneer of neuropsychiatric photography. He based himself at the West Riding Lunatic Asylum in Wakefield from 1866 to 1875, and there he taught psychiatry to students from the nearby Leeds School of Medicine. Crichton-Browne served as Lord Chancellor's Visitor from 1875 till 1922. Throughout his career, Crichton-Browne emphasised the asymmetrical character of the human brain and behaviour; and also, like Emil Kraepelin and Alois Alzheimer, made some remarkable predictions about the neurological changes associated with severe psychiatric disorder.

In 1920, Crichton-Browne delivered the first Maudsley Lecture to the Medico-Psychological Association in the course of which he outlined his recollections of Henry Maudsley; and in the last fifteen years of his life, he published seven volumes of reminiscences. In 2015, UNESCO listed Crichton-Browne's clinical papers and photographs (about 5000 items in all) as items of international cultural importance.

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