Mike Jay

Mike is an author, historian and curator who has written widely about the history of science and medicine, and particularly about drugs, madness and the mind.

His books include HIGH SOCIETY: MIND-ALTERING DRUGS IN HISTORY AND CULTURE, which accompanied the exhibition he curated for Wellcome Collection in 2010-11, THE INFLUENCING MACHINE: JAMES TILLY MATTHEWS AND THE AIR LOOM (2003, revised edition 2012), EMPERORS OF DREAMS: DRUGS IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (2000, revised ed. 2011) and THE ATMOSPHERE OF HEAVEN (2009).

In 2014 he wrote MINDCRAFT, A DIGITAL JOURNEY THROUGH THE UNCONSCIOUS MIND, for Wellcome Collection and worked with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as curator on their Intoxication Season. He writes regularly for London Review of Books and Wall Street Journal.

To accompany the exhibition (Sept 2016) at the Wellcome Institute, which he co-curated, Mike wrote THIS WAY MADNESS LIES which explores the big questions about madness, or mental illness, through the story of its proverbial home: the Royal Bethlem Hospital, or ‘Bedlam’. It uses the history of Bethlem to trace the rise and fall of the asylum, and to consider the future that faces us in the wake of its disappearance. All rights via Thames & Hudson.

His latest book MESCALINE: A GLOBAL HISTORY OF THE FIRST PSYCHEDELIC was published by Yale University Press in May 2019.

More recently Mike acted as an historical consultant on the final series of Poldark which featured Edward Marcus Despard – the subject of Mike’s acclaimed biography The Unfortunate Colonel Despard which Robinson reissued alongside the series. And he is now at work on DRUGS AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN MIND also for Yale University Press.

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