American Medical Biographies/Gray, John Perdue

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
2781282American Medical Biographies — Gray, John Perdue1920

Gray, John Perdue (1825–1886)

The biographers of John Perdue Gray state simply with regard to his boyhood, that he was born of American parents on August 6, 1825. He went to the common school in Half Moon, Center County, Pennsylvania, his birthplace, and to Dickinson College, leaving before graduation but receiving an honorary A. M. in 1852. His M. D. was obtained from the University of Pennsylvania in 1849 and the same year he became a resident physician in the Blockley Hospital, Philadelphia, and three years later third assistant physician to the New York State Lunatic Asylum in Utica, finally becoming superintendent when only twenty-eight.

While editor of the first journal in America devoted to insanity—The American Journal of Insanity—he raised it to an enviable position both in this country and abroad by his ability and by his own writings.

The high standard reached in New York in the care of the insane was largely due to his influence. As a medical witness in cases of interest he was widely known, notably in the trial of Guiteau and of Lincoln's assassin. In 1882 he was shot in Utica by a madman, the bullet entering over the left malar bone and coming out in the right cheek. He never quite recovered from the shock. His health from other causes became seriously impaired, so he made a trip to Europe and came home better, but died from kidney disease at Utica, November 29, 1886.

"Dr. Gray," writes a biographer, "was uncompromising, unyielding and in a certain sense coercive in his views of psychiatry. He did not recognize certain forms of insanity discerned by American and foreign alienists. With him moral insanity, dipsomania, kleptomania were psychiatric myths and misnomers invented to shield depravity and crime. He fought out his convictions on this line throughout a vigorous life, and, carrying these triumphantly into the forum often won there popular acquiescence, as in the case of Guiteau." To him belongs the credit of establishing in this country a microscopic study of the brain; that which made the Utica asylum a great school of instruction. His lectures attracted not only the students of his own college but others, as well.

He married, in 1854, Mary B. Wetmore, daughter of Edmund A. Wetmore of Utica, who, with three children, Dr. John P. Gray, Jr., William and Cornelia survived him.

His appointments numbered among others: professor of psychological medicine, Bellevue Hospital Medical College, 1874, and the same appointment to the Albany Medical College in 1876; president of the New York State Medical Society, of the New York State Medical Association, of the Association of Superintendents of Asylums, and honorary member of the British, French and Italian Medico-Psychological Associations. He was LL. D., Hamilton College. His writings included:

"Thoughts on the Causation of Insanity," 1872; "Responsibility of the Insane," 1875; "An Abstract of the Laws of New York— Comparisons of the Same with Those of England," 1879; "On the Sanity of Guiteau," 1882; "Insanity: Preventable Causes," 1885.

Albany Med. Annals, 1886, vol. vii.
Amer. Jour. Insanity, New York. 1887, vol. xliv.
Med. Legal Jour., New York, 1886, vol. iv.
Med. News, Phila., 1886, vol. xlix.
Med. Rec., New York, 1886, vol. xxx.
Trans. Med. Soc., New York, 1886.