Dr. Thomas Kirkbride

Thomas Story Kirkbride was born on July 31, 1809 into a traditional Quaker family in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The first of seven children he grew up in a stone farm house on the family's 150 acre farm. The young Thomas Kirkbride was unsuited to follow in his father's footsteps as a farmer as he was naturally "delicate". Medicine was considered an appropriate profession for the members of Thomas's Orthodox Quaker group and his father did all he could to help Thomas into a life of medicine. He began studying medicine in 1831 under Dr. Nicholas Belleville, of Trenton, New Jersey. He then attended the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. When he graduated in 1832 he was offered and accepted a position as the Resident Physician at the Friend's Asylum for the Insane at Frankford. After one year he was offered to take charge of the institution but Thomas declined and left the Asylum as he intended to become a surgeon. He then accepted a residency at the Pennsylvania Hospital. In 1835 he started a private practice in Philadelphia focusing mainly on surgery.

In the fall of 1840 Thomas Kirkbride was offered the position of Physician-in-Chief and Superintendent of the newly established Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane which was under construction in West Philadelphia. He accepted the position with great reluctance as it meant an end to his career as a surgeon. He immediately began the task of finishing and furnishing the new hospital. From his position as superintendent of the hospital he became a leader in the movement of moral treatment for the insane. He also became a national authority on hospital construction. He was one of the thirteen founding members of the

Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane and later became it's president from 1862 to 1870. In 1854 he published a book titled "On the Construction, Organization, and General Arrangements of Hospitals for the Insane". The influential book was a guide for constructing and operating hospitals for the insane. Many hospitals would be built following the guidelines laid out by Kirkbride in his book. These buildings would eventually be knows as "Kirkbride Plan" buildings and the building plan would flourish until the turn of the century.

Kirkbride died of pneumonia on December 16, 1883 at his home at the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane.


How he  influenced the hospital:

In 1848 the commissioners of the newly established Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital visited the Pennsylvania Hospital for the Insane and were given an extended tour of the hospital and grounds by Thomas Kirkbride. That evening when the commissioners returned to Harrisburg they adopted a resolution that the new hospital would be of "Kirkbride design". Kirkbride may also have had a hand in appointing his fellow Quaker, John Haviland as the architect of the new hospital and in 1851 he would become one of the original trustees. 



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