Journal of Community Health

, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 430–451 | Cite as

The Differing Views on Insanity of Two Nineteenth Century Forensic Psychiatrists

  • Allen D. Spiegel
  • Florence Kavaler


Dr. Charles H. Nichols and Dr. John P. Gray were the two foremost forensic psychiatrists in the latter half of the nineteenth century in the U.S. However, their rationales differed dramatically. They were involved in four notable murder trials where insanity issues arose: one was a trial for the murderer of a Union officer during the Civil War; in another, a conspirator was tried for the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln; in the third, a temporary insanity plea was supported by a medical expert for the first time in a U.S. courtroom; and the fourth was the trial of the assassin of President James A. Garfield. Pointedly, their differing viewpoints still remain controversial today.


Abraham Lincoln insanity expert medical opinion murder assassination 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Preventive Medicine and Community HealthState University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, College of MedicineBrooklynUSA

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