Dowbiggin, Ian R(obert) 1952-
DOWBIGGIN, Ian R(obert) 1952-
Historian. University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, professor and chair of history department.
Inheriting Madness: Professionalization and Psychiatric Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century France (part of "Medicine and Society" series), University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1991.
Suspicious Minds: The Triumph of Paranoia in Everyday Life, Macfarlane, Walter & Ross (Toronto, Canada), 1999.
Ian R. Dowbiggin is a historian and author who specializes in medieval and modern European history, twentieth-century world history, and the history of science and medicine. His books generally chronicle the development and practice of psychiatry.
Inheriting Madness: Professionalization and Psychiatric Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century France comprises the fourth volume in the University of California series "Medicine and Society," edited by Andrew T. Scull. In this work, Dowbiggin examines the hereditary theory of mental illness and its impact on the profession of psychiatry in France between 1835 and 1900. According to Julie V. Brown, who reviewed the book in Contemporary Sociology, "This book helps to fill in some important gaps in the sociological literature on the development of the modern science and practice of psychiatry." In the American Historical Review, Harvey G. Simmons wrote, "Dowbiggin's book is particularly interesting because it provokes comparison between the controversies that wracked nineteenth-century French psychiatry and contemporary debates about issues such as the organic basis of mental disorder and its relation to social problems."
In Keeping American Sane: Psychiatry and Eugenics in the United States and Canada, 1880-1940, Dowbiggin looks at the impact of the eugenics movement on the treatment of psychiatric patients in North America. Advocates of eugenics propose the improvement of the human species through selective breeding and control of reproduction, either through segregation or sterilization of mental patients or restriction of marriage. In JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, William H. Tucker judged Keeping America Sane a "valuable and meticulously documented study."
Suspicious Minds: The Triumph of Paranoia in Everyday Life contains Dowbiggin's consideration of the thinking behind conspiracy theories and such late-twentieth-century phenomena as repressed memory syndrome and politically correct speech. Brian Bethune, reviewing Suspicious Minds in Maclean's, called it "a valuable book, well-written from a core of moral outrage."
A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America comprises a history of the euthanasia movement in the twentieth century from its roots in Social Darwinism and the undermining of religious authority to the founding of the Euthanasia Society of America in 1938, and includes the movement's connections with the abortion debate and the passage of living will legislation. Also covered are such high-profile cases as Karen Ann Quinlan, a coma patient whose parents won the legal right to remove her from respirators in 1976 (although she lived without a respirator for another nine years), Nancy Cruzan, an auto accident victim whose parents battled to remove her feeding tubes, and Dr. Jack Kevorkian, a retired Michigan pathologist who was convicted of violating state laws prohibiting assisted suicide in 1999. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that "without shying away from making his own ethical judgments, Dowbiggin offers an intellectual and moral approach to a cultural flash point," and in Kirkus Reviews, a commentator judged A Merciful End "well-researched and evenhanded; a valuable contribution to the literature."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, December, 1992, Harvey G. Simmons, review of Inheriting Madness: Professionalization and Psychiatric Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century France, p. 1538.
American Journal of Sociology, January, 1993, Barry Glassner, review of Inheriting Madness, pp. 979-981.
American Scientist, May-June, 1998, Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr., review of Keeping America Sane: Psychiatry and Eugenics in the United States and Canada, 1880-1940, pp. 284-285.
Choice, December, 1991, R. F. White, review of Inheriting Madness, p. 671.
Contemporary Sociology, May, 1992, Julie V. Brown, review of Inheriting Madness, pp. 397-398.
First Things, May, 2003, Wesley J. Smith, review of A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America, pp. 63-68.
JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, February 11, 1998, William H. Tucker, review of Keeping America Sane, pp. 477-478.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2002, review of A Merciful End, p. 1442.
Library Journal, August, 1997, Lucille M. Boone, review of Keeping America Sane, p. 110.
Maclean's, August 2, 1999, Brian Bethune, review of Suspicious Minds: The Triumph of Paranoia in Everyday Life, p. 41.
Publishers Weekly, December 23, 2002, review of A Merciful End, p. 57.
Times Literary Supplement, January 2, 1998, Daniel J. Kevles, review of Keeping America Sane, pp. 3-4.*