Psychiatry’s Incurable Hubris

Gary Greenberg
Psychiatry’s Incurable Hubris

In 1886, Clark Bell, the editor of the journal of the Medico-Legal Society of New York, relayed to a physician named Pliny Earle a query bound to be of interest to his journal’s readers: Exactly what mental illnesses can be said to exist? In his 50-year career as a psychiatrist, Earle had developed curricula to teach medical students about mental disorders, co-founded the first professional organization of psychiatrists, and opened one of the first private psychiatric practices in the country. If any American doctor was in a position to answer Bell’s query, it was Pliny Earle.