Battie, William

   One of the founders of the concept of the therapeutic asylum, Battie was born in a small town in the county of Devon, the son of a vicar. He read medicine at Cambridge (A.M. in 1730) then, obtaining a license to practice from the university, practiced medicine in Cambridge while lecturing on anatomy at the university. In 1737, he took his M.D. degree at Cambridge, moving in the same year to London, where he soon became a fellow of the College of Physicians. He was instrumental in founding St. Luke’s Hospital for Lunaticks in 1750, becoming its chief physician, and simultaneously owned and supervised several private asylums. Publication in 1758 of his Treatise on Madness, the first manual to be based on actual cases rather than theoretical considerations, made him one of the most prominent "maddoctors" of the day. Battie was, along with Chiarugi and Pinel, among the earliest of physicians to conceive of insane asylums as having a therapeutic role and to see in psychiatry a distinctive kind of medical specialty. In the judgment of psychiatry historians Richard Hunter and Ida Macalpine, "Battie . . . initiated a new era in psychiatry. . . . As the first physician of repute with a scientific background and distinguished social position who made insanity his whole time work he raised the ‘Mad Business’ to a respectable medical specialty" (Three Hundred Years of Psychiatry, p. 404).

Edward Shorter. 2014.

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