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Philippe Pinel
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Doctor
    (April 20, 1745-October 26, 1826)
    Born in Jonquieres, France
    Appointed ‘physician of the infirmeries’ at Bicetre Hospital (1793-95)
    Chief physician of the Hospice de la Salpetriere (1795-1826)
    Wrote ‘Memoir on Madness’ (1794) and ‘Philosophical Classification of Diseases’ (1798)
    Considered a pioneer in the humane treatment of the mentally ill
    He was initially unable to work as a physician in Paris because his medical degree came from a university in the provinces (Toulouse, to be specific).
    He twice failed competitions to award him a stipend to study in Paris; the second time, the jury declared him ‘painfully’ mediocre in all areas of medical knowledge.
    He was finally appointed to run a hospital because he had befriended several politicians who came to power during the French Revolution.
    He is often credited as the first asylum director to unchain the mentally ill, but Vincenzo Chiarugi had done the same thing in Italy a decade earlier.
    A popular but almost certainly untrue legend claimed that he was rescued from a mob during the French Revolution by one of the patients he had unchained.
    He became interested in studying mental illness after a friend developed ‘nervous melancholy’ and eventually committed suicide.
    He had the shackles removed from the patients at the insane asylum in Salpetriere (1800).
    He ended the practice of displaying the insane to the public for an admission fee.
    He did away with bleeding, blistering and purging in favor of a therapy that included regular contact with the patients, discussions of their condition, and activities to improve their social skills and self-control.
    He performed the first smallpox inoculation in France (1800).
    He turned down an offer to be court physician to Napoleon Bonaparte because it would take him away from his clinical work.
    He was awarded the Legion of Honor (1804).

Credit: C. Fishel


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