It’s the birthday of one of the founders of psychiatry, Philippe Pinel (books by this author), born in Saint-André, France (1745). He studied mathematics, theology, and internal medicine before becoming the chief physician at a Paris insane asylum in 1792. Before Pinel arrived, conditions at the asylum were horrible: Among other things, patients were chained to the walls, and people could pay a fee to come in and watch them.
Pinel put a stop to these practices, as well as misguided treatments like bleeding, purging, and blistering. People generally believed that the insane were possessed by demons, but Pinel argued that they were just under a lot of stress. He started treating patients by talking to them about their problems in intense conversations on a regular basis, which paved the way for modern psychiatric practices.