Article ID: CBB003898443

Between biomedical and psychological experiments: The unexpected connections between the Pasteur Institutes and the study of animal mind in the second quarter of twentieth-century France (2016)


This article explores the unexpected connections between the Pasteur Institute in French Guinea and the study of animal mind in early twentieth century France. At a time when the study of animal intelligence was thriving in France and elsewhere, apes were appealing research subjects both in psychological and biomedical studies. Drawing on two case studies (Guillaume/Meyerson and Urbain), and then, on someone responding negatively to those connections, Thétard, this article shows how the long reach of biomedicine (linked to the prestige of Bernard and Pasteur) impinged on French biology and played a role in the tortuous, if not unsuccessful fate of animal psychology in France in the second quarter of the twentieth century. It shows how attempts to use apes (and other zoo animals) to yield new insights on animal psychology faced heavy restrictions or experienced false starts, and examines the reasons why animal psychology could not properly thrive at that time in France. Beyond the supremacy of biomedical interests over psychological ones, this article additionally explains that some individuals used animal behaviour studies as steppingstones in careers in which they proceeded on to other topics. Finally, it illustrates the tension between non-academic and academic people at a time when animal psychology was trying to acquire scientific legitimacy, and also highlights the difficulties attached to the scientific study of animals in a multipurpose and hybrid environment such as the early twentieth century Parisian zoo and also the Pasteur Institute of French Guinea.

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Authors & Contributors
van der Horst, Frank C. P.
Wilson, Robert A.
Wilson, David A. H.
Blum, Deborah L.
Kressley-Mba, Regina A.
Radick, Gregory
History of Psychology
Journal of the History of Biology
Biology and Philosophy
History of Science
Archives of Natural History
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Harvard University
Animal psychology
Animal experimentation
Animal behavior
Discipline formation
Harlow, Harry Frederick
Garner, Richard Lynch
Carpenter, Clarence Ray
Blyth, Edward
Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich
Ladygina-Kots, Nadezda N.
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, early
19th century
21st century
20th century, late
Paris (France)
Great Britain
United States
Primate Station, Sukhumi

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