Kolker expertly weaves the Galvins’ story with the history of schizophrenia. And what a horrible history it is. In the 1930s, for example, and in some cases even later, treatment included injections of animal blood, lobotomy and even sterilisation.

The family’s genetic material has been the subject of numerous studies. They are the perfect sample. According to one psychiatrist, they are potentially ‘the most mentally ill family in America’.

By studying the Galvins’ DNA and comparing it with that of the general population, scientists are making steps towards understanding how to treat, predict and even prevent schizophrenia.

It is a slippery illness, however: difficult to diagnose, even harder to treat, and with little consensus about what causes it, or even exactly what it is.

Was this the most disturbed family in America?” May 15, 2020