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Biography: Isaac Ray

Isaac Ray, M.D. (1807–1881): Medical Jurisprudence

Isaac Ray was the foremost forensic psychiatrist of his time. In 1838, he published A Treatise on the Medical Jurisprudence of Insanity (Boston), which served as an authoritative text for many years.

Ray received his medical degree in 1827 from Bowdoin and spent the following year visiting medical facilities in New England, England, and France. After several years in private practice in Maine, he became Superintendent of the State Hospital for the Insane in Augusta in 1841, and in 1845 he moved to Providence, R.I., to supervise the building of the private Butler Hospital and became its first Superintendent. In 1867, he moved to an active retirement in Philadelphia.

One of the founding members of the Superintendents’ Association, he served as President from 1855 to 1859. Between 1828 and 1880, except for one year he published at least one article every year, mainly dealing with insanity and its legal implications. Ray also published several important monographs, including Mental Hygiene (Boston, 1863) and Contributions to Mental Pathology (Boston, 1873).

In 1868, the Superintendents’ Association adopted his "Project of a Law," (see pages 17-22) which recommended statutory enactment to secure the rights of the mentally ill and define the civil and criminal relationships of the insane.