American Medical Biographies/Kirkbride, Thomas Story

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Kirkbride, Thomas Story (1809–1883)

Thomas Story Kirkbride was born July 31, 1809, near Morrisville, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He was a descendant of Joseph Kirkbride, of the parish of Kirkbride, County of Cumberland, England, a member of the Society of Friends, who came to this country with William Penn. Dr. Kirkbride received his educacation at Trenton, New Jersey, under the Rev. Jared D. Tyler, and afterwards took a course of higher mathematics at Burlington with Professor John Gummere. In 1828, at 19 years of age, he began the study of medicine, with Dr. Nicholas Belleville of Trenton, as his preceptor, and attended three full courses of lectures in the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania, and graduated with honors in March, 1832.

In April of the same year he was appointed resident physician to the Friends' Asylum for the Insane at Frankford, Philadelphia, and in March, 1833, he was elected resident physician to the Pennsylvania Hospital, where he remained two years and had charge of the "west wing" devoted to the treatment of the insane. He left the hospital in 1835 and settled in Philadelphia in the general practice of medicine, in which he was highly successful, obtaining a recognized reputation in the treatment of insanity. He was also physician to numerous charitable institutions, including the House of Refuge, the Magdalen Hospital and the Institution for the Blind.

At this time the Pennsylvania Hospital erected a new building on Haverford Road and 42nd Street, to be especially devoted to the care and treatment of the insane. It was completed January 1, 1841. In October of 1840 he was elected physician-in-chief and superintendent of this new institution, called "The Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane," and remained in that position until his death.

He was one of the organizers of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane at Philadelphia, in October, 1844, its first secretary and treasurer, and subsequently president of the association for eight years. He was conservative, of strong common sense, and his opinions justly carried great weight.

In 1844 he published a work entitled "Rules for the Government of those Employed in the Care of the Insane."

The July and October numbers of the Journal of Insanity for 1854 contained two articles by Dr. Kirkbride on "The Construction, Organization and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane," subsequently, in 1856, issued as a special work, which has become a standard authority. He was a contributor to The American Journal of Insanity, and to the American Journal of the Medical Sciences.

Dr. Kirkbride was elected a fellow of the Philadelphia College of Physicians in 1839, and was a member of the State Medical Society of Pennsylvania and of the County Medical Society of Philadelphia; also a member of the American Philosophical Society, and an honorary member of the British Medico-Psychological Association.

Dr. Kirkbride was of medium height, with a fine physique, a well-shaped head, and a countenance expressive of benevolence and warmth of heart. His voice was gentle, and his presence and demeanor were such as to win at once the confidence of his most wayward patients.

He died December 16, 1883.

Institutional Care of the Insane in the U. S. and Canada, Henry M. Hurd, 1917.
Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride, An Address by John B. Chapin, M.D.
Amer. Jour. Insan., 1898–9, vol. lv, 119–127. Portrait.