Hugh Welch Diamond

In the 1850s, an Englishman named Hugh Welch Diamond took a remarkable series of photographs.

Diamond was a doctor; he studied at the Royal College of Surgeons.  When he decided to become a psychiatrist, he was appointed as the Superintendent of the female department of the Surrey County Asylum.

Diamond was an enthusiastic practitioner of the new technology of photography; he would become one of the founders of the Photographic Society of London in 1853.  In his capacity as a physician, Diamond came to believe that taking photographic portraits of psychiatric patients would aid the diagnostic process.  He even published a paper on the subject (though in a photographic, and not medical, journal): ‘On the Application of Photography to the Physiognomy and Mental Phenomena of Insanity’, The Photographic Journal (July, 1856).  He believed that the particular madness which afflicted each of his patients would show itself in their physiognomy, and that by studying their photographs, he would be able to diagnose them more accurately.

Diagnostic photography has not flourished, in all likelihood because it does not work.  However, Dr. Diamond is owed gratitude for the portraits he left us.  I was unable to find biographical information on the women in these photographs.  These may be all that remain of them.

Here are only a few.

Diamond Patient 1

Diamond Patient 2

Diamond Patient 3

Diamond Patient 4

Diamond Patient 5


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