In 1812, Benjamin Rush, M.D., a signer of the Declaration of Independence, published the first psychiatric textbook in the United States, Inquiries and Observations on Diseases of the Mind. Almost two decades later, Dorothea Dix, a Boston school teacher, visited a jail and found mentally ill people confined in inhumane conditions. Over the next fifty years, she successfully persuaded state legislatures to appropriate funds to build mental hospitals.
In 1844, superintendents drawn from the existing mental hospitals met to share their experiences, cooperate in collecting statistical information, and assist each other in improving the treatment of the mentally ill. This group eventually became the American Psychiatric Association.
As a medical specialty that spans the humanities and natural sciences, psychiatry has sought to integrate different and often conflicting theories about how the mind works. Scientific research, psychological insight, advances in technology, and social and economic pressures have shaped the field into what it is today.
Books on the History of Psychiatry
American Psychiatric Publishing (APPI), a division of the American Psychiatric Association, publishes books about the scientific, social, and professional aspects of psychiatric history, written by those who contributed to and experienced it.
View a complete list of books related to the history of psychiatry.