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Association News
Philadelphia Psychiatric Society Documents Heritage
Psychiatric News
Volume 44 Number 20 page 8-8

Come take a trip down memory lane, back to January 11, 1909, in Philadelphia, some 208 years after the city officially was born. That day, Charles Burr, M.D., a professor of mental diseases at the University of Pennsylvania, summoned 27 medical doctors—all doctors of diseases of the mind—to form the Philadelphia Psychiatric Society (PPS). FIG1

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Edward Leonard Jr., M.D., a past president of the Philadelphia Psychiatric Society, has done extensive research on the history of the organization. The early treatment of alcoholism is among his published work, as is the mechanism of action of early medicines used to treat mental disorders. 

Photo courtesy of Edward Leonard, M.D.

A few "city named" psychiatric societies are older: New York (1903) and Detroit (1908), said Edward Leonard Jr., M.D., who included these facts in his article "The Founding of the Philadelphia Psychiatric Society," which appeared in the spring PPS newsletter.

Leonard, a former president of PPS, created a mixed-media PPS history lesson presented to members in January to kick off the society's centennial (see Psychiatric Society Celebrates Rich—and Long—History). Viewers are told the following and more:

• Francis Dercum, M.D., a professor of nervous and mental diseases at the city's Jefferson Medical College, was among the physicians present at the birth of PPS. At the time he owned and ran Dercum's Private Hospital for Nervous Diseases.

• The founding meeting of PPS took place in a building that was serving as home to the College of Physicians but constructed in the 1860s to house the Mutter Museum, world renowned today for its anatomical and pathological specimens.

• Burr credits Albert Buckley, M.D., with the idea of establishing a psychiatric society in the city. Buckley was a young physician at Friends Hospital, the first private psychiatric hospital in the country. It was established in 1813 by Quakers as the Asylum for the Relief of Persons Deprived of the Use of Their Reason. Buckley later became its superintendent.

• Periencephalitis, pituitary tumor, and puerperal septic delirium were among the topics discussed at PPS's earliest meetings. The subject matter shifted over the years with the presentation of such papers as "Insanity in Families," "What Has Psychology Given to Medicine?" and the" Statistical Study of Alcoholism as a Causative Factor in Insanity."

• Henry Cotton, M.D., the superintendent of New Jersey's State Hospital for the Insane in Trenton, reported in 1920 to have cured 62 insane patients by extracting their teeth. The theory was strongly shot down by Burr and Charles Mills, M.D., founder of the Philadelphia Neurological Society. Mills simply reasoned "that the teeth of Europeans are notoriously bad when compared to the teeth of Americans, yet the rate of insanity in Europe is no higher than in this country." ▪

Anchor for JumpAnchor for Jump

Edward Leonard Jr., M.D., a past president of the Philadelphia Psychiatric Society, has done extensive research on the history of the organization. The early treatment of alcoholism is among his published work, as is the mechanism of action of early medicines used to treat mental disorders. 

Photo courtesy of Edward Leonard, M.D.

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