Yet more fascinating to me were the arguments by Dr. Edward Charles Spitzka, an expert witness who testified in favor of the belief that Guiteau was insane.
Guiteau had "the insane manner" he had so often observed in asylums, adding that Guiteau was a "morbid egotist" who "misinterpreted and overly personalized the real events of life.Psychiatrists were called alienists in that era, and he was one of the few in America. He had studied in Vienna, bringing the empiricism of that school to the model more popular in America and England at the time, of seeking a mechanism and theory of illness first. (That conflict between approaches seems to have been part of all branches of medicine for centuries.) I browsed his work Insanity: Its Classification, Diagnosis, and Treatment because it seemed so thoroughly in the camp of understanding of mental illness as a brain disorder, likely heritable, that went so out of fashion a few decades later.
One of the arguments people still try to use in defending Freud and his theories is that he came upon the infant field of understanding behavior and the mind when it was still inchoate, backward, and terra incognita. Of course he wouldn't get things completely right, but he brought science and insight to a field in which virtually nothing was known, etc. For this he should still be treasured and applauded, they say. And, they assure us, many of his insights are still valid, and we can't go back to the Bad Old Days before people dared talk about (s.e.x.) can we?
Yet here we have clear evidence of something approaching recent understanding of mental illness, not only appearing in the literature decades before Freud and thus available to him, but being taught in Vienna. Freud did not merely interrupt the development of psychiatry, he actively set it back. Sigmund could not have done so without the complicity of the society around him, especially in European intellectual circles. But there it is - he was something of an intellectual menace, putting forth theories that people wanted to be true.