After all the customary chasing, finally laid my hands on this interesting article in a journal regarding psychopathology in world famous men. The study investigated 291 famous men in the fields of art, science, philosophy, literature, politics and music- based on their biographies-looking into family background, physical health, personality, psycho-sexuality, addictions and mental health. Given the nature of the venture the discrepancies are predictable. But what was surprising was that it concluded heavily against the creative individuals-painters, musicians and especially the writers.Subjects were classified into groups of No/Mild/Marked/Severe psychopathology. The women were not included-(probably strictly by the dictum that no one can figure out the women folks!!).
As Im not very acquainted with the personal lives of some musicians and scientists, I cannot comment much on them and moreover it feels stupid to type 291 proper nouns, however famous they are!
So, some reflects and ricochets,
- Most of the scientists were given a clean chit while Boltzmann Bohr, Mendel Metchnikoff, Galton to quote a few were classified as severe. Surprisingly Schrödinger escaped into the marked group along with Darwin and guess who Pasteur. Osler, Maxwell were amongst those deemed healthy.
- The Musicians I know were placed almost appropriately Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Schumann, Elgar (all severe), Stravinsky, Rossini, Chopin etal (marked) Gershwin, Bizet etc (mild).
- As regarding thinkers- well, expectedly most of the thinkers thought themselves into severe madness. E.g. Comte, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Ruskin James, Russell, Toynbee. If James is suspected as severe then Wittgenstein, Jung, (of all), Whitehead, Schopenhauer (all in marked) should also share the honours with him. Seems the benevolence of Schweitzer makes him sane.
- Artists not surprisingly were titrated against their creative potentials. Cezanne, Rivera, Kokoschka, Van Gogh (Psychiatry has exploited this chap!) are branded severely ill while Derain, Sargent, Pissarro Corot are amongst the other end of spectrum.·
- Coming to the politicians, well, probably the most decent classification barring one very big paradox, Gandhi is sane while Nehru is regarded as markedly eccentric.Thats ridiculous(read hilarious) considering, Gandhi publicly threatened to self harm himself on numerous occasions!!!!
- Now the writers-Faulkner,Conrad,Kipling, Gide, Proust,Fitzgerald, Lawrence,Wells, Googol, Waugh, Hesse, Joyce( my all time fav), Kafka, Hemingway, Wilde, Tolstoy-that’s most of my beloved writers and many years of my life. All of them labelled as loonies of extreme degree. Was not unexpected but felt sad somehow. Most of us owe a lot to these guys who have helped us to understand the world we live in better. Evidently not without a price!!
Having said that, I must add that psychiatry has to deal not with equations, codes or diagnoses but with life which by definition is a bias. So……….
While about here, I am reminded of this story about James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald-it seems Fitzgerald worshipped Joyce to an extent that he was reluctant to approach him; On being introduced to Joyce by Sylvia bleach in a party, it seems Fitzgerald knelt down on one knee before Joyce and asked "How does it feel to be a great genius, Sir? I am so excited at seeing you, Sir that I could weep...
Probably the most appropriate reply would be…. ‘Quite crazy son, quite crazy....’’
No surprise both of them went to the severely ill box, Ah! Life is never fair on passion….
PS: Personal reflect/ Conflict of interest -none declared!!!