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Biography: Thomas Story Kirkbride

Thomas Story Kirkbride, M.D. (1809–1883): Asylum Architecture

Thomas Story Kirkbride provided the major influences during the 19th century on the building and organization of mental hospitals. In 1854, he published his book, On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane (Philadelphia), which influenced the architecture and construction particularly of state asylums, known as "Kirkbride Hospitals," some of which were still in use into the mid-20th century.

Kirkbride had been influenced by the Quaker-founded York Retreat in England whose leader, Samuel Tuke, had published an account entitled, Practical Hints on the Construction and Economy of Pauper Lunatic Asylums (York, England, 1815). The Tuke family had instituted in their hospital a "moral treatment" approach to care for patients, which centered upon humane and kindly behavior. The Superintendents’ Association made efforts to institute this approach in their hospitals.

Thomas Story Kirkbride came from a Pennsylvania Quaker family. He received his medical training by preceptorship and gained a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1832, following which he joined the staff at Friends Hospital in Philadelphia. He later moved to the Pennsylvania Hospital before entering private practice in 1840. He was eventually invited to become Superintendent of the Mental Division of the Pennsylvania Hospital, which had gradually increased in size since its establishment.