Friday, 22 October 2010

I see the bad moon arising

As part of my India Papers digitisation job I quality check digital images and microfilm; yesterday I came across a couple of interesting pages from a lunatic asylum in Bengal, 1868.
The author was investigating the influence of climate and lunar phases on insanity. His experiment showed that the “waning moon had more apparent influence on the insanes than the waxing moon; but this can only be accidental, for though her face is less visible, she is still in her place in the heavens, and her attractive power (if any) must still be exerted; and that she really exerts no influence whatever.” The page shown is the table of results on which the author based his conclusion, which states at the head of the page “that there is no such person as a lunatic.” (Click on image to enlarge)

Full moons have long been associated with insanity, hence the term “lunatic,” borrowed from the Latin “lunacus.” In India patients with mental illness were known as “lunatics” or “insanes” until the 1920’s. This preceded the UK Mental Treatment Act of 1930 which changed the term to “person of unsound mind.”
Today, scientists are still researching correlations between illnesses such as schizophrenia and epilepsy and the full moon period. The police are also studying the influence of the moon on violent and criminal behaviour.
The next full moon is tomorrow, 23rd October, so perhaps we should take note of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song....

(Moon photo credit:

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