Irish Journal of Medical Science

, Volume 177, Issue 1, pp 79–84 | Cite as

Dr William Saunders Hallaran and psychiatric practice in nineteenth-century Ireland

  • B. D. KellyEmail author
Literary and Historical



Dr William Saunders Hallaran wrote the first Irish textbook of psychiatry in 1810.


To explore the relevance of Dr Hallaran’s textbook: An Enquiry into the Causes producing the Extraordinary Addition to the Number of Insane together with Extended Observations on the Cure of Insanity with Hints as to the Better Management of Public Asylums for Insane Persons.


This paper uses Dr Hallaran’s textbook to explore dominant themes in nineteenth-century psychiatry.


Dr Hallaran’s approach was characterized by (a) recognition of organic factors in aetiology; (b) concern about apparent increases in mental illness; (c) systematic engagement with causes, courses, outcomes; (d) reconsideration of traditional treatments (venesection, emetics, purgatives); (e) exploration of novel approaches (Dr Cox’s Circulating Swing); and (f) re-evaluation of traditional remedies (digitalis, opium, camphor, mercury) and physical treatments (shower baths, diet, exercise).


Many aspects of Dr Hallaran’s progressive approach to psychiatric care remain relevant today.


History, 19th century Mental disorders Therapeutics Mental health services Psychiatric hospitals 



The author is grateful for the comments of the anonymous peer-reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Adult Psychiatry, University College DublinMater Misericordiae University HospitalDublin 7Ireland

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