A Century of Psychiatry

A Century of Psychiatry

A Century of Psychiatry

A Century of Psychiatry


Modern psychiatry is based on the experiences and research of many psychiatrists, neurologists, neuropathologists and pharmacologists over the past 100 years. This historical account of psychiatry over the last century is therefore a timely publication of real interest to all psychiatrists and mental health professionals. It covers important developments in the recognition, understanding and treatment of psychiatric disorders, and includes biographies of many of the psychiatrists pioneering these advances. The impact of psychiatry on society, its culture and politics is discussed in detail. This is an invaluable reference resource on the history of psychiatry. Its comprehensive design, with consistent structure and use of sidebar headings ensures readability and accessibility.


A hundred years is a moment in the history of mankind: for psychiatry the past century contains almost all of its history. True, over the past several millennia there were individuals whose work was of capital importance for the development of our discipline: the past century however excels in terms of quality and quantity of innovations in psychiatry and in the numbers of revolutionary upheavals in our discipline.

In the past hundred years knowledge about the structure of the brain and about the manner in which it functions has expanded beyond all expectations. Neurosciences are hailed as the most important and most promising branch of scientific enquiry. Techniques of assessment of psychiatric disorders and of their treatment have helped to make psychiatry an accepted medical discipline similar to, if not the same as, all the others. Techniques of rehabilitation have been defined and proven to work. The profession has become conscious of the ethical imperatives that should govern work in this field and defined deontological principles for its practitioners.

There were also dark periods in the history of psychiatry over the past ten decades. Abuses of psychiatry for political purposes, mishandling, sterilisation and extermination of people who suffered from a mental illness or impairment, abuses and misuses of the privileged relationships between patients and psychiatrists, economic exploitation of the mentally ill and retarded have happened: they have been condemned by the profession and taught us much about ways to prevent such events from happening ever again. It is up to us and those who will be practising psychiatry in the future centuries to remember how easily things can go wrong and how important it is to remain alert and watchful concerning the behaviour of mental health workers.

The book before us presents an experienced editor's choice of issues that characterised psychiatry over the past hundred years. The book does not aim to be comprehensive: rather, it describes the events and developments in psychiatry highlighting some of them and leaving others outside of the limelight. The authors of the chapters composing the book have been selected with care and deal with their chapters with remarkable authority and competence.

I am delighted to see this book in print and applaud what I believe the chief intention of books about history should be — to help us to live the future using the best of the traditions of the past, thinking about the psychiatry of the past while building an even better and more helpful discipline for the future.

Norman Sartorius
President, World Psychiatric Association
Geneva, May 1999 . . .

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