Thomas Story Kirkbride

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Thomas Story Kirkbride
Thomas Story Kirkbride 001.jpg
Kirkbride, c. 1898
Born(1809-07-31)July 31, 1809
DiedDecember 16, 1883(1883-12-16) (aged 74)
Alma materUniversity of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Known forKirkbride Plan

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.[4] He began a study of medicine in 1828 under Dr. Nicholas Belleville, of Trenton, New Jersey when he was eighteen.[5][6] After receiving a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1832, Kirkbride had his own practice from 1835 to 1840.[5][6]


In 1840, Kirkbride became superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane.[1][5][6] In 1844, Kirkbride helped to found AMSAII, becoming secretary and treasurer, and subsequently its president from 1862 to 1870.[2][7] 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.[8]

Kirkbride's influential work, On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane with Some Remarks on Insanity and Its Treatment,[9] was published in 1854, and again in 1880.[5]

Kirkbride's ideas brought about mixed feelings in both patients and peers.[2][5] 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.[8] 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 in fact Kirkbride, after the death of his first wife, married a former patient.[2][5]

Kirkbride architecture[edit]

Kirkbride was an advocate of building hospitals for the mentally ill in a style which he believed promoted recovery and healing. This style was used on many late 19th century hospitals, including St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C.[10] Many of these buildings, designed by leading architects of the time, are in ruins or decay.[11] An estate, now known as "The Village",[12] previously Traverse City State Hospital, was saved from destruction and restored.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Kirkbride was married to Ann West Jenks in 1839. Together, they had two children - Ann, born in 1840, and Joseph John, born in 1842.[13]


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. ^ The American Journal of Insanity Vol. 55 p. 120 (1898)
  5. ^ a b c d e f 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.
  6. ^ a b c Richard E. Greenwood (1975). "Kirkbride's Hospital". University City Historical Society. Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  7. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Kelly, Howard A.; Burrage, Walter L., eds. (1920). "Kirkbride, Thomas Story" . American Medical Biographies. Baltimore: The Norman, Remington Company.
  8. ^ a b TALA (2008). "Building as Cure". Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  9. ^ On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane with Some Remarks on Insanity and Its Treatment,
  10. ^ a b "The Kirkbride Connection" (Nov-Dec 2007) Old-House Journal p.45
  11. ^ "Adventures in the Forbidden Zone" (Mar 2007) Popular Photography Vol.71, No.3 p.75
  12. ^ The Village, Grand Traverse Commons
  13. ^ Anne West Kirkbride

External links[edit]