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October 24, 1896


Author Affiliations

Alienist and Neurologist Alexian and Michael Reese Hospitals, Chicago; formerly Medical Superintendent of the Eastern Illinois Hospital for the Insane and Pathologist of the Cook County Insane Asylum; author of "Spinal Concussion," "Comparative Physiology and Psychology," etc. CHICAGO, ILL.

JAMA. 1896;XXVII(17):894-901. doi:10.1001/jama.1896.02430950014002e

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Treatment of the insane by our prehistoric ancestry can be inferred from fragmentary early literature and from conditions among existing races that have preserved the ideas and customs of remote periods. No precise chronologic statement could be made that would be true for all countries at any particular time, for civilization is a relative matter.

In India, a thousand to three hundred years before Christ, the causes of insanity were recorded as due to improper food, overwork, poisons, powerful emotions, etc., deranging the "wind, bile and phlegm," and six kinds of insanity were described, and in attempts at cure chastisement alternated with persuasion and gentleness. Elsewhere, at the same time, possession by evil spirits was the generally accepted explanation of insanity, and the afflicted were beaten to rid them of their devils, while priests were presumed to have some power of exorcism.

The custom of destroying the weak and defective

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