Thomas Story Kirkbride

This article is about the American physician. For the British writer, see Thomas Story.
Thomas Story Kirkbride

Kirkbride in 1898
Born (1809-07-31)July 31, 1809
Morrisville, Pennsylvania
Died December 16, 1883(1883-12-16) (aged 74)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Occupation Physician
Known for Kirkbride Plan

Thomas Story Kirkbride (July 31, 1809 - December 16, 1883) was a physician, advocate for the mentally ill, and founder of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (AMSAII), a precursor to the American Psychiatric Association.[1][2][3]

Early career

Born into a Quaker family in Morrisville, Pennsylvania.[4] He began a study of medicine in 1828 under Dr. Nicholas Belleville, of Trenton, New Jersey when he was eighteen.[5][6] After receiving a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1832, Kirkbride had his own practice from 1835 to 1840.[5][6]


In 1840 Kirkbride became superintendent of the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane.[1][5][6] In 1844, Kirkbride helped to found AMSAII, becoming president from 1862 to 1870.[2] Kirkbride pioneered what would be known as the Kirkbride Plan, to improve medical care for the insane, as a standardization for buildings that housed the patients.[7]

Kirkbride's influential work, On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane with Some Remarks on Insanity and Its Treatment,[8] was published in 1854, and again in 1880.[5]

Kirkbride's ideas brought about mixed feelings in both patients and peers.[2][5] Some in the medical community saw his theories and ideas as stubbornly clinging to ideals that hindered medical progress,[2] while others supported his ideas, and saw them change the treatment philosophy for the mentally insane.[7] In his patients, he sometimes inspired fear and anger, even to the point that one attempted to murder him,[2] but he also believed that the mentally ill could be treated, and possibly cured, and in fact Kirkbride, after the death of his first wife, married a former patient.[2][5]

Kirkbride died of pneumonia on December 16, 1883 at his home at the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane.[2]

Kirkbride architecture

Kirkbride was an advocate of building hospitals for the mentally ill in a style which he believed promoted recovery and healing. This style was used on many late 19th century hospitals, including St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C.[9] Many of these buildings, designed by leading architects of the time, are in ruins or decay.[10] An estate, now known as "The Village",[11] previously Traverse City State Hospital, was saved from destruction and beautifully restored.[9]

Personal life

Kirkbride was married to Ann West Jenks in 1839. Together, they had two children - Ann, born in 1840, and Joseph John, born in 1842.[12]


  1. 1 2 Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania (2008). "Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride". University of Pennsylvania Health System. Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (2008). "Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride". Kirkbride Buildings. Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  3. Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania (2008). "The Story of the Magic Lantern". University of Pennsylvania Health System. Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  4. The American Journal of Insanity Vol. 55 p. 120 (1898)
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Tomes, Nancy (1994). The Art of Asylum-Keeping: Thomas Story Kirkbride and the origins of American Psychiatry. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 387. ISBN 0-8122-1539-7.
  6. 1 2 3 Richard E. Greenwood (1975). "Kirkbride's Hospital". University City Historical Society. Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  7. 1 2 TALA (2008). "Building as Cure". Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  8. On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane with Some Remarks on Insanity and Its Treatment,
  9. 1 2 "The Kirkbride Connection" (Nov-Dec 2007) Old-House Journal p.45
  10. "Adventures in the Forbidden Zone" (Mar 2007) Popular Photography Vol.71, No.3 p.75
  11. The Village, Grand Traverse Commons
  12. Anne West Kirkbride
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