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Dr. Samuel B. Woodward: A 19th Century Pioneer in American Psychiatric Care
Posters and Presentations
  • Janet L. Dadoly, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Len Levin, University of Massachusetts Medical School
  • Lisa A. Palmer, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Document Type
Subject Area(s)
Woodward, Samuel Bayard, 1787-1850; Worcester State Hospital; Mentally Ill Persons; History, 19th Century; Hospitals, Psychiatric
Objective: Showcase the life and work of Dr. Samuel B. Woodward, the medical superintendent of one of the first public hospitals for the mentally ill in the U.S., the Worcester State Hospital in Worcester, Mass. Dr. Woodward overcame then-popular views of mental illness to champion compassionate, optimistic, and individualized treatment for patients. Methods: Dr. Samuel B. Woodward brought a significant paradigm shift to the dark world of mentally ill indigent citizens of Massachusetts in the early 19th century. When Dr. Woodward became the first superintendent of Worcester State Hospital in 1833, mentally ill patients were viewed with suspicion and fear and were usually relegated to prisons and poorhouses. Woodward rejected a supernatural explanation of mental illness that was very popular at that time. He believed mental illness was a somatic disease, not unlike other diseases. His approach, called “moral therapy,” consisted of kind, compassionate, individualized care that respected the patient as a human being. Dr. Woodward was also instrumental in the burgeoning field of psychiatry. He was a prolific writer and became the first president of the organization that would later become the American Psychiatric Association. Presented at the Medical Library Association Annual Meeting, San Antonio, TX, on May 17, 2005.
Worcester (Mass.); Massachusetts; 19th Century
  • moral therapy
Citation Information
Janet L. Dadoly, Len Levin and Lisa A. Palmer. "Dr. Samuel B. Woodward: A 19th Century Pioneer in American Psychiatric Care" (2005)
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