The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Idiocy
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|Edition of 1879. Written by J. W. Hawes. See also Idiot on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.|
IDIOCY, or Idiotcy, a term now used to express a condition of mental imbecility, though this idea was not originally contained in the root from which it is derived. The idiot (ἰδιώτης) among the Greeks was primarily the private individual, in distinction from the man who participated in public affairs; next, as the educated classes, especially in Sparta, where the word is believed to have originated, alone took part in public life, ἰδιώτης came to mean an ignorant or unlettered man; and finally, as ignorance tended to mental degradation, it was applied to one who did not possess the capacity to learn. Numerous attempts have been made to define idiocy, but none of them have been perfectly satisfactory. Dr. H. P. Ayres defines it as “that state of human existence which continuously manifests no signs of intelligence nor instinct.” “The type of an idiot,” says Dr. Seguin, “is one who knows nothing, can do nothing, wishes for nothing; and each idiot approaches in a greater or less degree this standard of idiocy.” In a later work he writes more definitely: “Idiocy is a specific infirmity of the cranio-spinal axis, produced by deficiency of nutrition in utero and in neo-nati. It incapacitates mostly the functions which give rise to the reflex, instinctive, and conscious phenomena of life; consequently, the idiot moves, feels, understands, wills, but imperfectly; does nothing, thinks of nothing, cares for nothing (extreme cases).” This deficiency of nutrition, occurring before birth, arrests the fœtal progress, and gives permanence to the transitory type through which the fœtus was passing; a similar arrest of development takes place after birth. The whole being may be affected, or more commonly one set of organs, as those of speech, &c. In this aspect idiocy may be considered as a prolonged infancy, in which, the infantile grace and intelligence having passed away, the feeble muscular development and mental weakness of that earliest stage of growth alone remain. Dr. Sägert of Berlin, a high authority on the subject, on the other hand, regards it as depending upon a faulty organization of the brain; and Dr. S. G. Howe considers “the pure type of idiocy to be a person whose lack of understanding arises from the smallness of his brain,” though acknowledging that for one person in whom idiocy is caused by this circumstance there are many in whom it is occasioned by other causes. It occurs in various degrees, separated by no definite line of demarkation, from the typical condition to a state scarcely distinguishable from normal humanity. Idiocy has been variously classified, according to the point of view or object aimed at. Dr. Seguin recognizes, in different aspects, eight classes, viz.: endemic, when connected with some form of cretinism (see Cretinism); hereditary, when ancestors or collateral relatives have been affected by idiocy or insanity; parental, when referred to certain conditions of the father or mother; accidental, when occasioned by various post-natal causes; profound, when the ganglia are altered; superficial, when only the peripheral termini of contractility and sensation appear to be affected; organic, when the organs are sensibly altered; and functional, when no organic lesion is observable. The terms “profound” and “superficial” are by others used simply to indicate the degree of idiocy. No particular physical trait is a criterion of this infirmity. It is accompanied by no special shape of the body, though a certain want of proportion is generally observable. The size of the head, except in extreme cases of hydrocephaly or microcephaly, is commonly quite normal, though appearing in infancy too large and later in life too small; nor is its shape a test, though generally somewhat deformed. But any deviation in the relative development of the segments of the brain from the type of a race, or any imperfection in the mode of union of the segments of the skull, indicates a priori some anomaly or imperfection of the faculties. Idiocy in infancy is difficult to detect, and can generally be determined only by comparison with a healthy child in the advance toward certain powers that mark the progress of ordinary infancy, as the ability to hold up the head, to sit erect, to use the hands, to take notice, &c.; the lapse of time leaving the idiot further and further behind in the race. In many cases premature senility is exhibited, which is believed to be peculiar to idiots. The symptoms of this condition are various. The body is generally feeble, the circulation particularly in the extremities imperfect, the respiration not deep, and the appetite sometimes abnormal. The gait is accompanied by a sidewise swinging or by forward plunges, or there is an inability to walk at all. The power of prehension is wanting or imperfect, while spasmodic, mechanical, or automatic motions are common. The touch is dull, less frequently over-sensitive. The taste and smell are oftener indifferent than abnormal. The hearing is passive and limited, sometimes only certain sounds or classes of sounds being heeded, while at others, though the organs are perfect, no sounds are attended to, and the patient becomes practically deaf and consequently mute, from inattention of the will or absence of any desire to hear. The sight is sometimes fixed and vacant, sometimes wandering, and the child may be practically blind from inability of the will to control the vision or from indifference of the mind to the image on the retina. Speech is sometimes wholly wanting; otherwise, more or less imperfect. Idiocy is most frequently complicated with epilepsy and chorea, less frequently with paralysis and contractures, and less frequently still with deafness and blindness; the degree of mental infirmity diminishing in the same order. Perhaps the great feature of idiocy is the inaction or absence of the will, though there is a vis inertiæ, by some called a negative will, which opposes itself to every attempt to draw the idiot from his indifference and isolation, or from the external trifles upon which he expends the little energy he has. When the disease is not complicated with epilepsy, &c., the idiot is harmless and mild; he has no hallucinations or delusions; he does not perceive wrongly, but only imperfectly or not at all. In some cases, even when the general condition is very low, an extraordinary power in a particular direction, as in music or calculation, is manifested. Idiocy, which is congenital or has its origin in the earlier years, is to be distinguished from dementia, or the loss of the mental powers resulting from disease or the disorganization of the brain in adults. The latter, though resembling idiocy in its apparent results, is incapable of amelioration. The term imbecility is commonly employed to denote a mild form of idiocy, but by Dr. Seguin it is used to designate an arrest of the mental development in youth (which may result in dementia), when vices, habits, and tendencies have been formed to complicate the disease. The causes assigned for idiocy are numerous, and not all of them well ascertained. Intermarriage of near relatives, intemperance in eating or drinking, and especially sexual congress leading to conception while one or both parties are intoxicated, excess of sexual indulgence or solitary vice, grief, fright, or sudden and alarming sickness on the part of the mother during gestation, the habitual use of water impregnated with magnesian salts, bad and insufficient food, impure air, hereditary insanity, and scrofulous or syphilitic taint, are the most commonly alleged causes of congenital idiocy. The effect on women of the excitements and anxieties of modern life, and of a false system of education, is stated as the cause of a progressive increase of idiocy noticed by most persons engaged in the treatment of idiots. Convulsions, epileptic fits, hydrocephalus, and other diseases of the brain, smallpox, scarlatina, and measles, blows on the head, or the translation of scrofulous or other eruptive diseases to the brain, are the usual influences which arrest mental development in children. The condition of the mother during lactation likewise has an important bearing on this question. — While among some nations idiots have been regarded with a certain awe as under the special protection of the Deity, until a comparatively recent period they were not deemed capable of improvement, and their condition was generally forlorn. They were suffered to grow up in neglect at home, or were thrown into the almshouses, insane asylums, or houses of correction, and often treated with cruelty. No attempt is known to have been made to improve their condition till the 17th century. When St. Vincent de Paul took charge of the priory of St. Lazarus, he gathered a few idiots, and, fitting up a room in the priory for their accommodation, took charge of them in person, and attempted to instruct them. His labors, though continued for many years, seem not to have been very successful. The next effort was made by the eminent philosopher and surgeon Itard, the friend and disciple of Condillac. In 1799 a wild boy (“the savage of Aveyron”), found in the forests of Aveyron, was brought to Itard, who hoped to find in his instruction the means of solving “the metaphysical problem of determining what might be the degree of intelligence and the nature of the ideas in a lad who, deprived from birth of all education, should have lived entirely separated from the individuals of his kind.” For more than a year he followed a psychological method, but subsequently adopted a system founded on physiology, and labored to develop the intellectual faculties of his subject by means of sensations. The young savage proved to be an idiot of low grade, and hence unfit for the philosophical experiment; but the attempt to instruct him had satisfied Itard that it was possible to elevate the mental condition of idiots. His immense practice, and the severe suffering induced by the malady which finally caused his death, prevented him from devoting much time to the subject; but he had gathered many facts, and these he committed to his pupil, Dr. Seguin, who entered upon the work as a labor of love, and devoted several years to a thorough research into the causes and philosophy of idiocy, and the best methods of treating it. Meantime others had become interested in the subject. In 1818, and for several years subsequently, the effort was made to instruct idiot children at the American asylum for the deaf and dumb in Hartford, Conn.; the measure of success was not large, but their physical condition was improved, and some of them were taught to converse in the sign language. In 1819 Dr. Richard Pool of Edinburgh, in an essay on education, advocated the establishment of an institution for imbeciles. In 1824 Dr. Belhomme of Paris published an essay on the possibility of improving the condition of idiots; and in 1828 a few were instructed for a short time at the Bicêtre, one of the large insane hospitals of Paris. In 1831 M. Falret attempted the same work at the Salpêtrière, another hospital for the insane in the same city. Neither of these efforts met with sufficient success to be continued. In 1833 Dr. Voisin, a French physiologist and phrenologist, organized a school for idiots in Paris, but it was not of long duration. In 1838 Dr. Seguin opened a school in the hospital for incurables of the rue du Faubourg St. Martin, and was soon so successful that the idiots in the Bicêtre were placed under his charge; and within three years he received from the French academy, whose committee had carefully tested his system of instruction, a testimonial of their approval. The previous efforts for the instruction of idiots had been made upon no definite plan, or with a view of testing some philosophical theory of the nature of mind or the original constitution of man. Dr. Seguin, starting with the postulate that idiocy is only a prolonged infancy, consulted nature as to the mode by which the physical powers are cultivated and the mind educated in the infant, and ended by adopting the physiological system of education. This system, considering all the manifestations of life as expressions of functions, and all functions as resultant from a certain organism, assumes that if we could take hold of an organ we should be able to make it perform its function; and teaches that as the organs of sensation are within our reach and those of thought beyond it, the physiological education of the senses must precede the psychical education of the mind. Applying this method to the varying phases of idiocy, each function is to be trained with especial reference to the peculiarities and deficiencies of the individual, and also in its relation to all other functions, with a view to a harmonious whole. Important agencies are pure air and good food, to strengthen and invigorate the system; gymnastic appliances, to exercise the various functions and correct abnormal manifestations; music, imitation, analogy, contrast; the play ground, the workshop, and the farm, which furnish a definite object and lend reality to the exercises, while they initiate the pupil into the actual operations of life. The legs, if they do not bend, may be made to yield by placing the child in a baby-jumper; if the feet refuse to step, they may be taught by making them encounter, with the regularity of a walk, a spring board which alternately receives and throws them back; the gait is regulated by the use of dumb-bells and by conducting the child between the rounds of a horizontal ladder or over planes of various inclinations and conditions of surface, representing the principal difficulties likely to be encountered in nature. The hands are taught to grasp by clasping them about the rounds of an inclined ladder and requiring them to support the weight of the body, or by the use of the balancing pole, which is thrown back and forth between the child and the teacher. The sense of hearing, when wanting, is aroused by music, by surprise sounds, or by sounds connected with some natural desire, as the dripping of water when the pupil is thirsty; the vacant or wandering sight is fixed and awakened by the steadfast gaze of the teacher, by the admission of light at intervals into a dark room, or by the use of the kaleidoscope; the touch, the taste, the smell are trained by appropriate exercises, and the refractory organs of speech are moulded and manipulated until they can utter the desired sounds. The operations are at first passive and in obedience to the will of the teacher; an active performance of the functions is gained by the presentation of motives within the understanding of the pupil. As each sense or organ is carried progressively toward the normal performance of its function, new avenues from without are opened by which ideas, at first concrete, but afterward more abstract, are instilled into the mind. Finding in idiots the infantile fondness for bright colors, teachers avail themselves of it to teach them the distinctions of color and form; noticing their liking for playthings, they furnish them with builders' blocks, cups and balls, and other toys, by which they are instructed in number, form, and size; words, not letters (these, except as a training for the eye, come later), and the meaning of words are taught by pictures and objects. Throughout these processes individual training is alternated with instruction in groups. Simultaneously with the physical and mental training, the idiots are instructed as far as practicable in the social and moral relations and duties by practice and example. The system thus briefly summarized is the one now followed or aimed at in the principal institutions both in the United States and Europe. The enthusiasm of philanthropists has perhaps in some cases led to the expectation of higher results than have been or are likely to be realized. A considerable proportion of those under instruction will make little or no intellectual progress; the mind is too thickly shrouded for the light to reach it. The condition of those suffering from epilepsy is still more hopeless. The training school may slightly improve their physical condition, but that is all. There is however a large number, and those often apparently the worst cases when admitted, who will attain to a considerable degree of intelligence under judicious instruction, and will develop sufficient ability to be capable, under the direction of others, of acquiring a livelihood. A considerable number learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, in numbers below 100; but in most cases they grasp the idea of numbers with great difficulty. In geography they make more progress. In penmanship and drawing many of them are very expert, and most of the girls and some of the boys exhibit considerable skill in needle work. In moral training they have generally exhibited a remarkable susceptibility for improvement. It is estimated that of idiots not affected by epilepsy, who are brought under instruction in childhood, from one third to one fourth may be made capable of performing the ordinary duties of life with tolerable ability. They may learn to read and write, to understand the elementary facts of geography, history, and arithmetic, to labor in the mechanic arts under proper supervision, and to attain sufficient knowledge of government and morals to fulfil many of the duties of a citizen. A larger class, probably one half of the whole, will become cleanly, quiet, able perhaps to read and write imperfectly, and to perform under the direction of others many kinds of work requiring little thought. This class, if neglected after leaving school, will be likely to relapse into many of their early habits. A small number, perhaps the most promising at entering, will make little or no progress. Nor can the result in any particular case be predicted beforehand, and no methods of instruction yet adopted will invariably develop the slumbering intellect, and confirm and correct the enfeebled or depraved will. According to Dr. Seguin, “not one in a thousand has been entirely refractory to treatment; not one in a hundred who has not been made more happy and healthy; more than 30 per cent. have been taught to conform to social and moral law, and rendered capable of order, of good feeling, and of working like the third of a man; more than 40 per cent. have become capable of the ordinary transactions of life under friendly control, of understanding moral and social abstractions, of working like two thirds of a man; and 25 to 30 per cent. come nearer and nearer to the standard of manhood, till some of them will defy the scrutiny of good judges when compared with ordinary young women and men.” The institutions generally, under the pressure of applications, do not receive those afflicted with epilepsy, congenital insanity, paralysis, &c., and retain only those that promise improvement. The age of admission in most instances is from 6 to 14, and the term of instruction from 5 to 7 years. — Dr. Seguin continued the instruction of idiots in Paris till 1848, a part of the time in a private establishment. In 1839 he published with Esquirol his first pamphlet, and in 1846 his treatise on the treatment of idiocy, which placed him at once in the front rank of living psychologists. In 1848 he visited the United States, and assisted in the organization and improvement of several institutions for idiot instruction; and he now resides in New York. (See Seguin.) In 1839 Dr. Guggenbühl began the study of cretinism in Switzerland, and in 1842 opened his school on the Abendberg. In the latter year Sägert, a teacher of deaf mutes at Berlin (now imperial councillor and general inspector of the department of instruction of unfortunates in Prussia), began to receive idiotic pupils, and devoted himself to the study of medicine in order the better to understand their physiological condition. The school of Dr. Guggenbühl was discontinued at his death in 1863. It is generally considered that his system was a failure. At present (1874) there are three schools in France: that at the Bicêtre, under the supervision of M. De Laporte, with about 20 inmates; that in the Salpêtrière, under Dr. Delasiauve and Mlle. Nichol, with 50 inmates; and that in the insane asylum at Clermont in the department of Oise, superintended by Dr. Labitte, and having 15 inmates. In Belgium there are separate departments for idiots in the insane asylums at Gheel and at Ghent; the former, under the superintendence of Dr. Bulckens, having 15 idiotic youth, and the latter, under Dr. Inghels, about 40. In Switzerland there are two private training schools for idiots: one in the canton of Bern, under the superintendence of Dr. Appenzeller, opened in 1868, and having 12 pupils in 1874; the other near Basel, under the charge of Dr. Iselin, opened in 1850, and having 15 pupils. In 1863 there were 15 institutions in Germany, mostly private, viz.: at Bendorf, Berlin (two), Hasserode, Neinstedt, and Scnreiberhau, in Prussia; Ecksberg and Neudettelsau, in Bavaria; Buschhad, Hubertsburg (two), and Mäckern, in Saxony; Mariaberg and Winterbach, in Würtemberg; and Langenhagen, in Hanover. At present there are 10 schools for idiots in Prussia, some of which are maintained by the state and others by the provinces. The only asylum for idiots in the Netherlands is the medical asylum for idiotic youth at the Hague, opened in 1858, which took its origin from the day school for idiots, opened in 1855. The number of inmates March 23, 1874, was 48 (25 boys and 23 girls), while the day school, which is continued in connection with the asylum, and only receives children residing at the Hague, has 25 pupils. These institutions are supported by subsidies, by contributions, and by fees of pupils. They are under the charge of A. S. Moesveld as director or superintendent, who with his wife has 12 assistants, and of Dr. C. W. Eikendal as physician. The number of teachers is 12, including one instructor in gymnastics and two in handicraft. In Sweden there are three schools for idiots in operation, viz.: at Sköfde in the province of West Gothland, under the superintendence of Miss E. Carlbeck, opened in 1868, and in 1874 having 32 pupils; at Stockholm, under the superintendence of Miss W. Lundell, opened in 1870, and having 20 pupils; at Strömsholm, in the province of Westmanland, under the superintendence of Mr. R. Bruce, opened in 1871, and having 10 pupils. These schools receive only congenital idiots who give hope of improvement. Two others are about to be opened, at Strengnäs and Gefle. There is a training school in St. Petersburg, and also one at Newcastle, New South Wales, which in 1872 had 132 pupils. The first schools in England were small, and were sustained by some benevolent ladies, in the towns of Lancaster, Bath, Ipswich, and Brighton. In 1847 an effort was made to establish an institution in some degree commensurate with the wants of the class for whom it was intended. In this movement Dr. John Conolly, the Rev. Dr. Andrew Eeed, the Rev. Edwin Sidney, and Sir S. Morton Peto distinguished themselves by their zeal and liberality. They first rented a nobleman's residence, called Park house, at Highgate, near London, in 1848, and two years subsequently Essex hall at Colchester. In 1853 the foundation stone of the present capacious and admirably appointed institution at Earlswood, near Redhill, Surrey, was laid, and it was opened in 1855. It now has about 700 inmates, and is under the superintendence of Dr. G. W. Grabham. With it is connected a farm of about 100 acres, and many of the pupils are instructed in farming and gardening, while others are taught mat making, basket making, tailoring, carpentering, and similar employments. Upon its opening the inmates of Park house were removed to it, and ultimately those of Essex hall, which was closed in 1858. The latter was reopened in 1859 as the eastern counties asylum for idiots and imbeciles, and now has about 70 inmates. The western counties asylum was established in 1864 at Starcross, near Exeter; and the Dorridge Grove idiot asylum at Knowle, now known as the midland counties asylum, was opened in 1866. More recently the Royal Albert asylum (northern counties) has been established near Lancaster, occupying a fine building surrounded with ample grounds, and capable of accommodating 500 inmates; it is under the superintendence of Dr. Shuttleworth. These institutions are supported chiefly by subscriptions and donations; pupils are admitted upon payment, and may enjoy the benefits of instruction gratuitously by the nomination of the boards of directors or the election of the subscribers. The private institution of Dr. Langdon Down, formerly superintendent of Earlswood, at Normansfield, near London, has about 50 inmates, and is designed only for the wealthy. Besides these training schools, there are two large asylums near London maintained by the poor-law boards for keeping and feeding idiots and dements. In Scotland, besides the institution established in 1853 on the estate of Sir John and Lady Ogilvie at Baldovan, near Dundee, there is the “Scottish national institution for the education of imbecile children,” founded by a society organized for that purpose, and opened in 1862 at Larbert, Stirlingshire, under the superintendence of Dr. David Brodie, who for several years previously had been in charge of a school for idiots in Edinburgh. The present superintendent is Dr. W. W. Ireland, and the number of pupils is about 90. In Ireland an establishment has recently been endowed by Dr. Stewart, to which it was intended to remove the inmates of the asylum for lunatics and idiots at Lucan, near Dublin. The only idiot asylum in Canada was opened in July, 1872, at London, Ontario. It occupies a separate building, accommodating 40 patients, in the grounds of the asylum for the insane, and is under the charge of Dr. Henry Landon, the superintendent of that institution. It is as yet merely a house of refuge, but the present building is to be enlarged, and another provided elsewhere for a training school. In the United States, where there are now 10 institutions, the movement for the instruction of idiots commenced almost simultaneously in New York and Massachusetts. Efforts had been made, in isolated cases (apart from the attempts at the American asylum already referred to), to instruct idiot children in the Perkins institution for the blind in Boston, and in the New York deaf and dumb institution, as early as 1838 or 1839; but the feasibility of organizing an institution for their treatment and training does not seem to have been thought of till the attention of philanthropists was drawn to it by the eloquent letters of Mr. George Sumner, describing his visits to the schools in Paris. These letters were published in 1845, and Dr. S. B. Woodward, long known as the superintendent of the hospital for the insane at Worcester, Mass., and Dr. Frederick F. Backus of Rochester, N. Y., soon after corresponded upon the subject. Dr. Backus was elected a member of the New York state senate in the autumn of 1845, and in January, 1846, read a report which he had drawn up on the subject of idiot instruction, and the necessity of an institution for the purpose. A few weeks later he reported a bill for such an institution. During the same month a bill passed the Massachusetts legislature, appointing a commission to investigate the condition of the idiots of Massachusetts, and report on the necessity of measures for their instruction. The result was the establishment of an experimental school in October, 1848, in a wing of the institution for the blind at South Boston. Dr. Hervey B. Wilbur, a young physician of Barre, Mass., opened a school for idiot children there in July, 1848. The school at South Boston was incorporated in 1850 as the “Massachusetts school for idiotic and feeble-minded youth,” and has remained under the supervision of Dr. S. G. Howe. The state makes an annual appropriation of $16,500, and poor children are admitted without charge upon the recommendation of the governor, besides which there are some paying pupils and a few supported by the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island. Facilities are afforded here for employing the inmates in the simpler branches of manufacture. The number under instruction in 1873 was 122; number remaining at the close of the year, 119; expenditures, 17,560 38. In 1851 the institution whose organization Dr. Backus had sought in 1846 was finally established, first as an experimental school at Albany, and subsequently as a permanent state institution, the “New York asylum for idiots,” at Syracuse. The state in 1855 erected a fine edifice for it in the latter city, at a cost of between $80,000 and $90,000, with accommodations for 150 pupils. It has been from the first under the charge of Dr. Hervey B. Wilbur, who was called from Barre to organize the experimental school. It has an extensive farm, and has been enlarged to accommodate 225 inmates. The number of pupils in 1871 was 155, of whom 90 were males and 65 females. The number under instruction in 1872 was 164, of whom 132 were wholly supported by the state, the rest paying wholly or in part for their maintenance; number remaining at the close of the year, 163; number of teachers, 5; other officers, &c., 6; expenditures, $34,049 59. In 1852 a private school was established at Germantown, Pa., by Mr. J. B. Richards, which resulted in the incorporation in the following year of the “Pennsylvania training school for feeble-minded children.” In 1857, having received a grant from the state, and liberal subscriptions from individuals, its trustees purchased a tract of land about a mile from Media, Delaware co., and 12 m. from Philadelphia, and commenced the erection of the building which is now occupied. This institution has a farm of more than 100 acres, and was at first under the supervision of Dr. J. Parish, who was succeeded by Dr. Isaac N. Kerlin, the present superintendent. The number under instruction in 1873 was 249; remaining at the close of the year, 222, of whom 123 were males and 99 females; 84 were supported wholly and 24 partly by the state, 27 by New Jersey, 3 by Delaware, 12 by the city of Philadelphia, 58 by parents or guardians, and 14 by the institution; expenditures, $53,985 40. There are four departments. The asylum embraces a distinct portion of the building and grounds, accommodating about 25 male inmates, who are only susceptible of habit-training, and only a small proportion of whom can be advantageously employed at work of any kind. A fund has been started to erect a separate building for an asylum. The nursery, also distinct from the other departments, accommodates 32 children of helpless condition, who are attended by experienced nurses. The school department is divided into five classes, and at the close of 1873 included 117 children, who receive from three to five hours' instruction daily. The exercises, while having especial reference to training in articulation, movements, and ideas, differ little from those in schools of the primary and secondary grade for intelligent children. The industrial department embraced 29 boys and 20 girls, who either were only capable of being taught manual labor, or had been through the school training and could with advantage to themselves be instructed and kept in usefulness. Of the whole number (701) admitted to the close of 1873, there were mutes, 138; semi-mutes, 176; defective in articulation, 204; defective in sight, 142; defective in hearing, 139; unable to walk, 19; of imperfect gait, 344; unable to feed themselves, 74; unable to dress themselves, 158; uncleanly in habits, 269; of destructive habits, 374; epileptic, 157; malformed, 90; scrofulous, 575. Up to July 1, 1872, the improvement had been as follows: taught to speak, 53; articulation improved, 253; taught to read, 254; to write, 146; to feed themselves, 61; to dress themselves, 94; to walk, 5; gait improved, 286; reformed from bad habits, 164; from destructive habits, 302; accustomed to some employment, 241; epilepsy cured, 23; epilepsy improved, 78. From the report for 1870 it appears that of 500 who had enjoyed the benefits of the institution, 81 became capable of earning their own support in domestic service, farming, or certain shop employments, under the guidance of friends; 140 were able to earn a half support; 118 could perform small services of no great value; while 161 were wholly dependent, earning nothing, and evincing an improvement only in their personal habits, in delicacy, language, or movement; 267 proved to be adapted to schools, and 233 were not susceptible of scholastic improvement. In 1857 the “Ohio state asylum for the education of idiotic and imbecile youth” was organized at Columbus as an experimental school, under the superintendence of Dr. R. J. Patterson, who was succeeded in 1860 by Dr. G. A. Doren, the present superintendent. It was permanently established in 1864, when a farm of 130 acres, about 2 m. W. of the city, was purchased, and the erection of a building to accommodate 250 inmates (since somewhat enlarged) commenced, which was occupied in 1868. The number under instruction in 1872 was 312; remaining at the close of the year, 288; teachers, 11; other officers, &c., 4; expenditures, $84,425 58. This institution is entirely supported by the state, and all pupils are maintained and educated free of charge, except for clothing. The “Connecticut school for imbeciles” was established at Lakeville in 1858, and incorporated by the legislature in 1861; it is under the supervision of Dr. H. M. Knight. The number under instruction during the year ending May 1, 1872, was 55; remaining on that date, 48, of whom 20 were beneficiaries of the state to the amount of $3 a week. The state has also appropriated money for the erection and enlargement of buildings. The “Kentucky institution for the education of feeble-minded children and idiots” was established at Frankfort in 1860, and is under the superintendence of Dr. E. H. Black. The number of inmates in 1874 was 104. The “Illinois institution for the education of feeble-minded children” was established at Jack-Bonville in 1865 as an experimental school, under the charge of the board of directors of the institution for the deaf and dumb, and was incorporated under its own board of trustees in 1871. It has been from the first under the superintendence of Dr. Charles T. Wilbur, brother of the superintendent of the New York institution. The number under instruction in 1873 was 126; remaining at the close of the year, 100, of whom 66 were males and 34 females; teachers, 4; other officers, &c., 3; expenditures, $25,777 49. The pupils are divided into seven classes. The expenses of the institution, except for clothing of pupils, are defrayed by the state. The idiot asylum on Randall's island, supported by the city of New York, is under the charge of Mrs. Herbert, matron, and in 1874 had 167 inmates, of whom 91 were males and 76 females; 44 were unimprovable cases; the remaining 123 were receiving instruction in a school opened in October, 1867, and conducted by Miss Mary C. Dunphy (who has been principal from the first), with three assistants. The private institution at Barre, Mass., has since 1851 been carried on by Dr. George Brown. It embraces ample grounds, handsomely laid out, with several buildings, in which the patients are classified according to their condition and the pecuniary ability or inclination of the parents. The number of inmates is about 60, of whom part, as epileptics, &c., are received for medical treatment, part for custody, and part for instruction. A private school was opened in 1871 at Fayville, Worcester co., Mass., by Mrs. O. H. Knight and Mrs. M. A. F. Green, formerly teachers at South Boston. The number of pupils is limited to 12. The number of idiots in the United States, according to the census of 1870, was 24,527, of whom 14,485 were males and 10,042 females; 3,188 were colored, and 1,645 foreign-born; 140 were also deaf and dumb, 105 blind, and 11 both deaf and dumb and blind. There were 437 under 5 years of age, 1,616 from 5 to 10, 3,088 from 10 to 15, 3,706 from 15 to 20, 6,476 from 20 to 30, 3,938 from 30 to 40, 2,571 from 40 to 50, 2,676 of 50 and upward, and 19 of unknown age. The number in each state is shown in the following table:
|District of Columbia||50|
|Other territories and Nevada||15|
The number of idiots and their proportion to the population cannot, however, be ascertained with any satisfactory degree of accuracy. The census statistics are untrustworthy, both from the different standards adopted by enumerators, and from the difficulty of persuading parents, from whom the returns are usually obtained, that their children are idiots. Some of the worst cases in idiot asylums were brought there by their friends, not as idiots, but as being a little peculiar in their habits. The effort has been made in several states to obtain returns from physicians, clergymen, and town officers, but with very moderate success. So far as these returns go, however, they show a much greater prevalence of idiocy than has been commonly supposed; and it is now generally conceded by competent judges that the number of idiots is greater than that of the deaf and dumb or of the blind, and as great as that of the insane, the proportion being not less than 1 in 1,000 of the population. Assuming this ratio, the number of idiots in the United States would be more than 38,000. According to the census of 1871, the number of idiots and imbeciles in England and Wales in that year was 29,452, of whom 14,728 were males and 14,724 females; but the actual number in those two countries has been estimated as high as 50,000. The number in Scotland is stated at 3,000; in Ireland as high as 7,000. The number of idiots in the Netherlands, according to Dutch authorities, is between 3,000 and 4,000; the census of Norway in 1865 enumerated 2,039. The number of idiots and cretins in Switzerland was estimated in 1868 at 3,800. — Under the common law, “an idiot or natural fool,” according to Blackstone, “is one that hath had no understanding from his nativity, and therefore is by law presumed never likely to attain any.” “A man is not an idiot if he hath any glimmering of reason, so that he can tell his parents, his age, or the like common matters.” His custody and the care of his lands were at first vested in the lord of the fee, but subsequently in the crown, and exercised through the lord chancellor. The sovereign took the profits, supplied the idiot with necessaries, and upon his death restored the estate to his heirs. There was a writ de idiota inquirendo, to inquire whether a man was an idiot. The jury, however, rarely found a person an idiot from nativity, but in most cases only non compos mentis, in which case a different rule applied. For the present legal status of idiots see Lunacy. — See “Essay on Education,” by Dr. Richard Poole (first published in the “Edinburgh Encyclopædia,” 1819, afterward in a separate volume, 1825); Traitement moral, hygiène et éducation des idiots, by Dr. E. Seguin (Paris, 1846); “Reports of Commissioners on Idiocy in Massachusetts” (Boston, 1848-'9); “Statistical Studies on Idiocy,” by M. Hubertz (Copenhagen, 1851); “Mental Alienation and Idiocy in England, Scotland, and Ireland,” by Dr. Stark (vol. xiv. of statistical society's “Journal,” 1851); Traité du goître et du crétinisme, by Dr. Niepce (2 vols., Grenoble, 1852); “Essay on Idiocy,” by Dr. Coldstream (Edinburgh, 1852); Die Heilung und Verhütung des Cretinismus und ihre neuesten Fortschritte, by Dr. Guggenbühl (Bern and St. Gall, 1853); “Report of Commissioners on Idiocy in Connecticut” (New Haven, 1856); “Essay on Idiot Instruction,” by Dr. Ferd. Kern (Allgemeine Zeitichrift für Psychiatrie, 1857); Die gegenwärtige Lage der Cretinen, Blödsinnigen und Idioten in den christlichen Ländern, by Julius Desselhoff (Bonn, 1857); “Report on the Education of Imbecile and Idiotic Children,” by Dr. H. P. Ayres (vol. xiii. of the “Transactions” of the American medical association, 1862); Uebersicht der öffentlichen und privaten Irren und Idioten-Anstalten aller europäischen Staaten, by Dr. Albrecht Erlenmeyer (Neuwied, 1863); “Lunacy and Law, together with Hints on the Treatment of Idiots,” by F. E. D. Byrne (London, 1864); “The Training of Idiotic and Feeble-minded Children,” by Dr. Cheyne Brady (Dublin, 1864); “Idiocy and its Treatment by the Physiological Method,” with bibliography, by Dr. Seguin (New York, 1866); “New Facts and Remarks concerning Idiocy,” by the same (New York, 1870); “On Idiocy, especially in its Physical Aspects,” by Dr. W. W. Ireland (Edinburgh, reprinted from the “Edinburgh Medical Journal” for January and February, 1874); and the annual reports of the various institutions.