Keeping America Sane: Psychiatry and Eugenics in the United States and Canada, 1880-1940

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Cornell University Press, 1997 - Psychology - 245 pages

What would bring a physician to conclude that sterilization is appropriate treatment for the mentally ill and mentally handicapped? Using archival sources, Ian Robert Dowbiggin documents the involvement of both American and Canadian psychiatrists in the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. He explains why professional men and women committed to helping those less fortunate than themselves arrived at such morally and intellectually dubious conclusions. Psychiatrists at the end of the nineteenth century felt professionally vulnerable, Dowbiggin explains, because they were under intense pressure from state and provincial governments and from other physicians to reform their specialty. Eugenic ideas, which dominated public health policy making, seemed the best vehicle for catching up with the progress of science. Among the prominent psychiatrist-eugenicists Dowbiggin considers are G. Alder Blumer, Charles Kirk Clarke, Thomas Salmon, Clare Hincks, and William Partlow. Tracing psychiatric support for eugenics throughout the interwar years, Dowbiggin pays special attention to the role of psychiatrists in the fierce debates about immigration policy. His examination of psychiatry's unfortunate flirtation with eugenics elucidates how professional groups come to think and act along common lines within specific historical contexts.


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Keeping America sane: psychiatry and eugenics in the United States and Canada, 1880-1940

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Psychiatric historian Dowbiggin (Inheriting Madness, Univ. of California, 1991) traces the role of American and Canadian psychiatrists in the eugenics movement of the late 19th and early 20th ... Read full review


Psychiatry in Canada
G Alder Blumer Eugenics and U S Psychiatry 18801940

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About the author (1997)

Ian Robert Dowbiggin is Chair of the Department of History at the University of Prince Edward Island. He is the author of Inheriting Madness: Professionalization and Psychiatric Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century France; A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America, and A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life, Death, God, and Medicine.

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