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Views & Reviews Medical Classics

A Treatise on Insanity

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 11 May 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2953
  1. Mohammad Shaiyan Rahman, clinical research fellow, forensic psychiatry, University of Manchester
  1. mohammad.rahman2{at}

Is it possible to treat patients with mental illness humanely and still effect a change? This question was central to Philippe Pinel’s seminal book Traité Médico-Philosophique sur L’aliénation Mentale ou la Manie. It was published in France in 1801, and a popular translation (A Treatise on Insanity) was published in England in 1806. This book had an enormous influence on French and Anglo-American psychiatrists during the 19th century.

Philippe Pinel (1745-1826) has been described as the father of modern psychiatry. He was born in 1745, and his name has most commonly been associated with …

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