Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Seguin, Édouard

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SEGUIN, Édouard, physician, b. in Clamecy, France, 20 Jan., 1812; d. in New York city, 28 Oct., 1880. He was educated at the College of Auxerre and St. Louis, and then studied medicine and surgery under Jean Gaspard Itard. At the suggestion of Itard he determined to devote himself to the training of idiots, and thoroughly investigated the causes and philosophy of idiocy and the best means of dealing with it. In 1837 he began to treat an idiot boy, and in 1839 he opened the first school for idiots. He was soon able to obtain remarkable results by his system of training. In 1844 a commission from the Academy of sciences in Paris examined critically his plan of educating idiot children, and in their report declared that, up to the time when he began his labors, idiots could not be educated or cured by any means, but that he had solved the problem. After the revolution of 1848 he came to the United States, and after visiting various schools, modelled on his own, that had been established in the United States, and assisting in their organization, he settled in Cleveland, and later in Portsmouth, Ohio. In 1860 he removed to Mount Yernon, N. Y., and he received the degree of M. D. from the medical department of the University of the city of New York in 1861, after which he came to reside in New York city. Subsequent to 1866 he devoted attention to the study of animal heat, adding greatly to the knowledge on that subject by the methods of thermometry that he devised and the instruments that he invented, of which the physiological thermometer, largely used by physicians, is the most important. In 1873 he was a commissioner to the World's fair in Vienna from the United States, and published a special “Report on Education.” He was a member of various medical societies, and was president of the Association of medical officers of American institutions for idiotic and feeble-minded persons. To Dr. Seguin more than any other person is due the honor of showing to what degree the congenital failures of nature can be redeemed and educated to comparative usefulness. According to his testimony, “not one idiot in a thousand has been entirely refractory to treatment, not one in a hundred has not been made more happy and healthy; more than thirty 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 forty 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 twenty-five to thirty 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 men and women.” His writings, which are numerous, include “Résumé de ce que nous avons fait pendant quatorze mois” (Paris, 1839); “Conseils à M. O. sur l'éducation de son enfant idiot” (1839); “Théorie et pratique de l'éducation des idiots” (2 parts, 1841-'2); “Hygiène et éducation des idiots” (1843); “Images graduées a l'usage des enfants arrièrés et idiots” (1846); “Traitement moral, hygiène et éducation des idiots et des autre enfants arrièrés” (1840), which is accepted as the standard authority on the subject; “Jacob Rogrigue Péreire, notice sur sa vie et ses travaux” (1847); “Historical Notice of the Origin and Progress of the Treatment of Idiots” (translated by Dr. John S. Newberry, Hartford, 1856); “Idiocy and its Treatment by the Physiological Method” (New York, 1866); “New Facts and Remarks concerning Idiocy” (1879); “Prescription and Clinical Record” (1870); “Medical Thermometry,” with C. A. Wunderlich (1871); “Manual of Thermometry for Mothers” (1873); “Thermométres physiologiques” (Paris, 1873); “Tableaux de thermométrie mathématique” (1873); and “Medical Thermometry and Human Temperature” (New York, l876).