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HomeContentsOnline exhibitions > Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond: Patients at Surrey Asylum (ca. 1855)

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Henry Peach Robinson 
Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond 
Albumen print 
National Science and Media Museum 
The Royal Photographic Society Collection, Inventory no: 2003-5001/2/22848 
This photograph was acquired from Ralph Winwood Robinson in 1934.
Dr Hugh Welch Diamond (1809 - 1886) was a doctor specialising in the treatment of mental patients, using photography as part of his treatment. One of the earliest photographers, Robinson referred to Diamond as a 'father figure' of photography. He was born and educated in Norwich; studied medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons; opened a private surgery in London in 1831; became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1835 and an elected fellow of the Medical Society of London in 1846. He was active in London antiquarian circles, and he built up collections with a particular emphasis on ceramics and prints. In 1834 he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. In 1845 he began meeting with what became known as the Calotype Society, later referred to as the Photographic Club. Also during the 1840s he became interested in the newly reformed treatment of the insane, and in 1842 began studying mental disease at Bethlem Hospital under Sir George Tuthill. In 1848 he was elected the residential superintendent of the female department of the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum at Springfield, where he remained until 1858. In the 1850s Diamond published more than a dozen essays and notes on photography and became active in the Photographic Exchange Club and the Photographic Society of London. He became known for photographing patients, the first systematic use of photography in the history of psychiatry. In 1856 Diamond resigned his position at the Surrey County Asylum and moved to Twickenham, where he established a private asylum for female patients. During the late 1850s and 1860s Diamond was active in the Photographic Society, editing its journal from 1859 to 1869, serving as its secretary for this period, and later as one of its Vice Presidents, but he discontinued his practice of photographing inmates around this time. He continued to hold weekly gatherings of literary, antiquarian, photographic, and artistic friends at his home until his death. Hugh Welch Diamond was a member of the Linked Ring Brotherhood.
Henry Peach Robinson was a pioneer of combination printing - joining multiple negatives to form a single image - although not the first to establish it. In 1855 he opened a photographic studio in Leamington Spa. He became one of the founding members of the Birmingham Photographic Society in 1856. In 1864 he moved to London and began writing influential essays on photography. He opened a new studio in Tunbridge Wells around 1869 and in 1870 became vice-president of the Royal Photographic Society. He resigned from the Society post in 1891 and instead became one of the early members of the rival Linked Ring Brotherhood. 
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