Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/606

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

were drawing nigh; but lie labored on, modestly and devotedly, apparently without a thought of the great political storm raging about him.

His first step was to throw overboard the whole theological doctrine of "possession," and to discard utterly the idea that insanity is the result of any subtle spiritual influence. He simply put in practice the theory that lunacy is the result of bodily disease.

It is a curious matter for reflection that, but for this sway of the destructive philosophy of the eighteenth century, and of the Terrorists during the French Revolution, Pinel's blessed work would in all probability have been thwarted, and he himself excommunicated for heresy and driven from his position. Doubtless the same efforts would have been put forth against him which the Church, a little earlier, had put forth against inoculation as a remedy for small-pox; but, just at that time, the great churchmen had other things to think of besides crushing this particular heretic: they were too much occupied in keeping their own heads from the guillotine to give attention to what was passing in the head of Pinel. He was allowed to work in peace, and in a short time the reign of diabolism at Bicêtre was ended. What the exorcisms and fetiches and prayers and processions, and drinking of holy water, and ringing of bells, had been unable to accomplish during eighteen hundred years, he achieved in a few months. His method was simple: For the brutality and cruelty which had prevailed up to that time, he substituted kindness and gentleness. The possessed were taken out of their dungeons, given sunny rooms for habitation, and allowed the liberty of pleasant ground for exercise. Chains were thrown aside. At the same time the mental power of each patient was developed by its fitting exercise, and disease was met with remedies sanctioned by experiment, observation, and reason. Thus was gained one of the greatest, though one of the least known, triumphs of modern science and humanity.

The results obtained by Pinel had an instant effect, not only throughout France but throughout Europe: the news spread from hospital to hospital; at his death, Esquirol took up his work; and, in the place of the old training of judges, torturers, and executioners by theology to carry out its ideas in cruelty, there was now trained a school of physicians to develop science in this field and carry out its decrees in mercy.[1]

A similar evolution of better science and practice took place in England. In spite of the coldness, and even hostility, of the

  1. For the services of Tenon and his associates, and also for the work of Pinel, see especially Esquirol, "Des Maladies mentales," Paris, 1838, i, 35; and, for the general subject and the condition of the hospitals at this period, see Dagron, as above.