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This article is about the American Physician Thomas Story Kirkbride. For the Britishmarker writer, see Thomas Story.
Thomas Story Kirkbride (July 31 1809 - December 16 1883) was a physician, advocate for the mentally ill, and founder of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (AMSAII), a precursor to the American Psychiatric Association.

Early career

Born into a Quaker family in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, Kirkbride began a study of medicine in 1831 under Dr. Nicholas Belleville, of Trenton, New Jerseymarker when he was eighteen. After receiving a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvaniamarker in 1832, Kirkbride originally sought to become a surgeon, and had his own practice from 1835 to 1840.

Psychiatry

In 1840 Kirkbride was asked to become superintendent of the newly established Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insanemarker. He accepted for largely practical reasons, as his training and experience interning at Friends' Asylummarker and at Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Hospitalmarker provided him with the necessary background for the position. As Superintendent he became one of the most prominent authorities on mental health care in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

In 1844, Kirkbride helped to found AMSAII, serving as secretary, then later as president from 1862 to 1870. Kirkbride pioneered what would be known as the Kirkbride Plan, to improve medical care for the insane, as a standardization for buildings that housed the patients.

Kirkbride's influential work, On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane with Some Remarks on Insanity and Its Treatment, was published in 1854, and again in 1880. Kirkbride had been influenced by the Quaker-founded York Retreatmarker in England whose leader, Samuel Tuke, had published an account entitled, Practical Hints on the Construction and Economy of Pauper Lunatic Asylums (York, England, 1815). The Tuke family had instituted in their hospital a "moral treatment" approach to care for patients, which centered upon humane and kindly behavior. The Superintendents’ Association made efforts to institute this approach in their hospitals.

Kirkbride's ideas brought about mixed feelings in both patients and peers. Some in the medical community saw his theories and ideas as stubbornly clinging to ideals that hindered medical progress, while others supported his ideas, and saw them change the treatment philosophy for the mentally insane. In his patients, he sometimes inspired fear and anger, even to the point that one attempted to murder him, but he also believed that the mentally ill could be treated, and possibly cured, and Kirkbride actually married a former patient after his first wife died.

Kirkbride died of pneumonia on December 16, 1883 at his home at the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane.

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