Biography of Philippe Pinel (1745-1826)

French alienista physician, born in Jonquieres April 20, 1745 and died in Paris on October 25, 1826.

Born into a family of doctors, he studied classical and then religious, but he soon left the ecclesiastical career to study medicine in Toulouse, where he obtained the title of Doctor in 1773. After a brief stay in Montpellier, he arrived in Paris in 1778. His beginnings in the French capital were difficult; initially dedicated to provide tutoring in math and to write medical items of different kinds. This informative and journalistic activity took him, in 1784, to assume the leadership of the Gazette de Santé and to translate the English the Institutions de Médecine pratique (institutions of practical medicine) of Cullen, Scottish author Pinel had already discovered during your stay in Montpellier and whose work exerted great influence in his nosograficos approach. It did not exercise clinic until 1786, he began to work in establishing private Belhome for the wealthy mentally ill.

He followed with enthusiasm the revolution of 1789, when he became "moderate bourgeois" during the Terror. Between 1893 and 1895 was the Hospice of Bicêtre, whose section of "unhealthy" discovered the work of the caretaker Pussin, which allowed him to understand the significance of the moral treatment inside the institutions. This was the setting for the "liberation of fools" (one of the founding myths of Psychiatry), to deprive them of their chains and try with them therapeutic and administrative initiatives based on good treatment and medical treatment of the mentally ill. After being appointed Professor of medical physics and hygiene at the new Paris School of health, eventually occupying, in 1794, Professor of medical pathology. A year later, on 13 may, he came as Chief Consultant to la Salpêtrière, where introduced the same reforms that previously at Bicêtre, and served as the alienismo until his death.

In addition to his work as a "reformer" of assistance to the crazy, his theoretical work also had a great significance in the development of a true psychiatric pathology and laid the foundations of the French alienismo of the 19th century. His Nosographie philosophique ou Méthode of l'analyse Appliquée à the Médecine (1st Edition, 1798), inspired by Cullen, incorporates the "modernity" of the mentality anatomoclicica of Bichat, concepts from the natural history and, above all, the analytical method, which takes Condillac and the idéologie.

However, his final work is the Traité doctor-philosophique sur l'alienation mentale (1801), where he conducted a simple proposal for classification of mental alienation: melancholy, mania, mania without delirium, dementia and idiotism. Classification who exceeded the complicated and endless nosographies of earlier authors (Sauvages, Vogel, Sagar and the own Cullen), and differential diagnosis, and clinical practice. It differentiated between "predisposing" (or inherited) causes and "occasional" or acquired causes (violent emotions, external events), but it was very cautious in establishing clear relationships between madness and cerebral localization of the same, despite practicing autopsies and point out the seriousness of brain injuries and their sheaths.

It is important to note that health care changes introduced in the institutions where he worked, both in his theoretical work, Pinel intends to, with more clarity than Cabanis in his Rapports du physique et du moral de l'homme (1802), to integrate and to ensure the achievements of the revolution in the way of social reform. The proposal of the French alienist is based theoretically and practically in English mental health contributions: Crichton, Cullen, Haslan, etc., are repeatedly cited intended to legitimize their willingness to reform. It claims administration and the Government the creation of new institutions that, ultimately, facilitate the role of the alienismo and, in general, of medicine, in the direction of the State and society. Pinel hand emerges, then, a new mental paradigm in which they cited a complex series of elements which, along with the revolutionary experience, can be summarized in the following: the encyclopedic sensualism, the confidence of the physiocrats in the Administration, faith rousseaoniana in nature and moral education and the romantic reformation of English psychiatry.

Already at the beginning of the 19th century, his work came to be recognized by the post-revolution institutions: Member of the Institut, Legion of Honor, etc.; Napoleon was "medical consultant of the Emperor", and during the Bourbon Restoration, he was decorated with the order of Saint-Michel. However, this apparent political opportunism did not prevent that in 1822 he was removed from his post of Professor. His last years were overshadowed by this destitution and, apparently, by the squandering of his sons Charles and Scipion, whose doubts took over.

Philippe Pinel is considered the founder of French Psychiatry, creator of a school and an alienista movement that took place, during the 19th century, various and significant contributions both psychiatric knowledge and assistance to the mentally ill.


POSTEL, j. and QUETEL, C. (eds.) Nouvelle Histoire de the Psychiatrie (Toulouse: Privat, 1983).

WEINER, D. B. Comprendre et Soigner. Philippe Pinel (1745-1826) the médecine de l'Esprit (Paris: Fayard, 1999).

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