The Thaw Trial and the First Reported Use of the Term "Brain Storm"
Testimony of Doctor Britton D. Evans, Alienist (defense psychiatrist)
February 12, 1907
"I observed that Harry K. Thaw exhibited a peculiar facial expression, a glaring of the eyes, a restlessness of the eyes, a suspicious viewing of the surroundings and me, watching every movement of me. I observed a nervous agitation and restlessness, such as comes from a severe brain storm, and is common in persons who have recently gone through an explosive or fulminating condition of mental unsoundness. I observed in him a peculiar condition known as logorrhea*."
[N. Y. Times, page 3 (2/13/1907)]
* logorrhea refers to an "excessive flow of words," which was a common symptom of mania
The word brain storm was frequently used in the Thaw trial. Dr. Charles G. Wagner, another defense alienist, testified that "brainstorm" was a good word to describe what was going on in Thaw's brain after the murder.
Although "brainstorm," emerges in the 1907 trial as a negative term denoting a form of mental insanity, by the 1930s it has a more positive meaning, denoting a sudden and generally creative and helpful thought.
The Thaw Trial and "Dementia Americana"
From the Summation of Defense Attorney Delphin M. Delmas
April 9, 1907
“Ah, gentlemen, if you desire a name for this species of insanity let me suggest it—call it Dementia Americana. That is the species of insanity which makes every American man believe his home to be sacred; that is the species of insanity which makes him believe the honor of his daughter is sacred; that is the species of insanity which makes him believe the honor of his wife is sacred; that is the species of insanity which makes him believe that whosoever invades his home, that whosoever stains the virtue of this threshold, has violated the highest of human laws and must appeal to the mercy of God, if mercy there be for him anywhere in the universe.”