Thomas Story Kirkbride

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Thomas Story Kirkbride
Thomas Story Kirkbride.jpg
Thomas Kirkbride, M.D. From the collections of the National Library of Medicine.
Born (1809-07-31)July 31, 1809
Morrisville, Pennsylvania
Died December 16, 1883(1883-12-16) (aged 74)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Occupation Physician
Known for Kirkbride Plan
This article is about the American Physician Thomas Story Kirkbride. For the British 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.[1][2][3]

Early career[edit]

Born into a Quaker family in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, Kirkbride began a study of medicine in 1828 under Dr. Nicholas Belleville, of Trenton, New Jersey when he was eighteen.[4][5] After receiving a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1832, Kirkbride had his own practice from 1835 to 1840.[4][5]


In 1840 Kirkbride became superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane.[1][4][5] In 1844, Kirkbride helped to found AMSAII, becoming president from 1862 to 1870.[2] 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.[6]

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.[4] Kirkbride had been influenced by the Quaker-founded York Retreat 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.[4] The Superintendents’ Association made efforts to institute this approach in their hospitals.[4]

Kirkbride's ideas brought about mixed feelings in both patients and peers.[2][4] Some in the medical community saw his theories and ideas as stubbornly clinging to ideals that hindered medical progress,[2] while others supported his ideas, and saw them change the treatment philosophy for the mentally insane.[6] In his patients, he sometimes inspired fear and anger, even to the point that one attempted to murder him,[2] 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.[2][4]

Kirkbride died of pneumonia on December 16, 1883 at his home at the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane.[2]


  1. ^ a b Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania (2008). "Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride". University of Pennsylvania Health System. Retrieved November 28, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g (2008). "Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride". Kirkbride Buildings. Retrieved November 28, 2008. 
  3. ^ Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania (2008). "The Story of the Magic Lantern". University of Pennsylvania Health System. Retrieved November 28, 2008. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Tomes, Nancy (1994). The Art of Asylum-Keeping: Thomas Story Kirkbride and the origins of American Psychiatry. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 387. ISBN 0-8122-1539-7. 
  5. ^ a b c Richard E. Greenwood (1975). "Kirkbride's Hospital". University City Historical Society. Retrieved November 28, 2008. 
  6. ^ a b TALA (2008). "Building as Cure". Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Retrieved November 28, 2008. 

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