Philippe Pinel

1745-1826 Pinel was a French physician who worked to develop humane approaches toward the mentally ill. His treatments have been called moral treatments, in that they involved a minimal amount of restraint, and close, personalized contact with patients.

Pinel worked at two French hospitals, the Bicetre and Salpetriere. While at Bicêtre, he eliminated medical treatments for the mentally ill, such as bleeding, purging, and blistering. He replaced those physically-based treatments with ones involving emotional support. Pinel visited each of his mentally ill patients, often several times a day, and took careful notes over two years. He engaged them in lengthy conversations.

Pinel also made worked on the creation of classification systems for mental illness. He classified disorders into four basic types:

He argued that mental disorders are not separate entities but stem from a single disease that he called "mental alienation."

In modern commentary, Michael Foucault’s influential book, Madness and civilization: A history of insanity in the age of reason portrays Pinel, along with William Tuke, as the driving force behind the 18th century shift from physical to mental oppression.

Writings of Philippe Pinel, arranged chronologically

Pinel, P. (1798) Nosographie philosophique ou méthode de l'analyse appliquée à la médecine.

Pinel, P. (1801) Traité médico-philosophique sur l'aliénation mentale; ou la manie, translated into English by D. D. Davis as a Treatise on Insanity in 1806.

Pinel, P. (1802) La Médecine Clinique

Writings about Philippe Pinel

Foucault, M. (1965). Madness and civilization: A history of insanity in the age of reason. NY Random House.