Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Winslow, Forbes Benignus

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WINSLOW, FORBES BENIGNUS (1810–1874), physician, ninth son of Thomas Winslow, a captain in the 47th regiment of foot, and his wife, Mary Forbes, was born at Pentonville in August 1810. His father was a direct descendant of Edward Winslow [q. v.] The family lost their American property in the war of independence and came to England. After education at University College, London, and at the Middlesex Hospital, where he was a pupil of Sir Charles Bell [q. v.], he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1835, and graduated M.D. at Aberdeen in 1849. He had to pay the expenses of his own medical education, and did so by acting as a reporter for the ‘Times’ in the gallery of the House of Commons, and by writing small manuals for students on osteology, and on practical midwifery. In 1839 he published anonymously ‘Physic and Physicians,’ in two volumes, a collection of miscellaneous anecdotes about physicians and surgeons; and in 1840 ‘The Anatomy of Suicide,’ an endeavour to demonstrate that most suicides are not criminal, but are victims of mental disease. This was followed in 1843 by ‘The Plea of Insanity in Criminal Cases,’ and in 1845 by ‘The Incubation of Insanity.’ He was now regarded by the public as an authority in cases of insanity, and in 1847 opened two private lunatic asylums at Hammersmith, where he employed the humane method of treating lunatics which is now universal, but was then regarded as on its trial. He founded the ‘Quarterly Journal of Psychological Medicine’ in 1848, and continued it for sixteen years. When the Earl of Derby was installed as chancellor of the university of Oxford, the honorary degree of D.C.L. was conferred on Winslow on 9 June 1853. He continued to write numerous papers on insanity and on its relation to the laws, and in 1860 published ‘On the Obscure Diseases of the Brain and Mind,’ a work containing many interesting cases. In 1865, after recovering from a serious illness, he wrote ‘Light and its Influence’ and a short essay ‘On Uncontrollable Drunkenness.’ He was examined before a committee of the House of Commons in 1872 on this subject. The frequent establishment of the plea of insanity in criminal cases was largely due to his influence, and he was called as a witness in many celebrated trials. He died at Brighton on 3 March 1874, and was buried at Epping. The ‘Medical Circular’ for 16 March 1853 contains his portrait, engraved from a daguerreotype. One of his sons, Lyttelton Stewart Winslow, graduated in medicine and pursued the same studies.

[British Medical Journal, 1874, vol. i.; Medical Circular, 1853, vol. ii.; Lancet, 14 March 1874; Journal of Psychological Medicine, 1875, vol. i., edited by L. S. Winslow, M.D.; Works.]

N. M.