Views & Reviews Between the Lines

The abolition of memory

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b3328 (Published 08 September 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b3328
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

    The ambition to understand the workings of the brain, the better to control thoughts and emotions, is an old one—as is the claim that such understanding is just around the corner. In 1880 the American socialist Edward Bellamy (1850-98), best known for his utopian novel Looking Backward, implied this claim in his novel Dr Heidenhoff’s Process.

    Dr Heidenhoff practises in Boston but has a slight German accent that reassures his patients of his intelligence and scientific prowess. The process he has discovered is one by means of which he is able to eradicate guilty memories, thus turning a sinner back into an innocent: “Given a patient, who, by excessive indulgence of any particular train …

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