Monday, December 08, 2014

The first recorded polygraph test in history

Above: Erasistratus the Physician Discovers the Love of Antiochus for Stratonice by Benjamin West (1772)

"By the time of Erasistratus, the celebrated Greek physician and anatomist (300-250 B.C.), we find very definite attempts to detect deceit and these, interestingly enough, appear relatively objective in method (i.e., feeling the pulse). One such attempt is related by Plutarch and others. It concerned the love of Antiochus for his step-mother, Stratonice, and his efforts to conceal it from his father, Seleucus I of Syria, surnamed Nicator.

"Nicator, formerly a general in the conquering army of Alexander the Great, had married the beautiful Stratonice. Sometime after this marriage, Nicator's son (of a former wife), Antiochus, began to lose weight and to languish in an unknown disease. Nicator, whose associations with Alexander the Great had made him familiar with Alexander's respect for learning, decided to patronize learning himself and to look about for a capable physician who could cure his son's ailment. He called to his court Erasistratus, who had gained renown for his discussions of the functions of the brain and nervous system.

"When Erasistratus arrived at the court he acted on the current suspicion that Antiochus may have developed a consuming passion for the beautiful woman his father had married. In discussing with Antiochus the virtues of Stratonice he found occasion to feel Antiochus' pulse, and its tumultuous rhythm made him sure of his suspicions. Consequently Erasistratus informed the monarch that Antiochus was infatuated by Stratonice. Indeed, significant circumstantial evidence was to support this diagnosis: the second Stratonice was begotten of the intimacies of Antiochus and the Queen."

from "A History of Lie Detection" by Paul V Trovillo

But when Father Brown is told about a "pulsometer" in G.K. Chesterton's story "The Mistake of the Machine" (1914):

"'What sentimentalists men of science are!' exclaimed Father Brown, 'and how much more sentimental must American men of science be! Who but a Yankee would think of proving anything from heart-throbs? Why, they must be as sentimental as a man who thinks a woman is in love with him if she blushes. That's a test from the circulation of the blood, discovered by the immortal [William] Harvey; and a jolly rotten test, too.'"

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