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Gosselin, R. (1935). Mental Defect: By Lionel S. Penrose, M.D. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1934. 205 p.. Psychoanal Q., 4:529-531.

(1935). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 4:529-531

Mental Defect: By Lionel S. Penrose, M.D. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1934. 205 p.

Review by:
Raymond Gosselin

This title is sufficient to cause the psychiatrist to consider the book as not meriting his time and serious attention, an attitude not without justification; for when the subject is given consideration in text books of psychopathology, it is disposed of in a chapter stressing the constitutional and unalterable aspects of the disorders classified, and the studies appearing in current literature and the infrequent books on the subject, are usually dull compilations of statistics or descriptions of tests devised for the accumulation of more statistics.

With this expectation, Dr. Penrose's work is a stimulating surprise. He is the Research Medical Officer of the Royal Eastern Counties Institution of Colchester, England. He regards the study of mental deficiency as a branch of human biology, considers that it provides a fruitful field for research when approached from this angle, and subjects all current theories of the nature and origin of mental deficiency to critical examination with admirable scientific impartiality. In the light of such criticism, most of the sweeping generalizations based on the biased or faulty interpretation of statistics are shown to be erroneous in their conclusions. It is apparent throughout the book that Dr. Penrose brings to his subject a thorough training and the breadth of cultural equipment demanded by a subject requiring excursions into—or in most instances a comprehensive grasp of—such varied special fields as psychopathology, medicine, biology, sociology, education, genetics, statistics, criminology.

It is instructive to learn how far the interests of the psychiatrist and the specialist in mental defect are identical. For instance, the condition dementia proecocissima is a psychiatric rarity apparently because the children afflicted are usually found in institutions for mental defectives; and with many adult disorders, it is a matter of chance whether the patient be placed in a psychopathic hospital or in an institution for the feebleminded. Similarly, the group described in this book under the heading subcultural amentia, is synonymous with, or includes those patients who fall in this country in the classification constitutional psychopathic inferiority.

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