100 King St W, Hamilton, ON L8P 1A2, Canada
Ian holds a Bachelor of Arts from McMaster University.
27 King's College Cir, Toronto, ON M5S, Canada
Ian holds a Master of Arts from the University of Toronto.
Rochester, NY, United States
Ian holds a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Rochester.
Photo of Ian Dowbiggin
Photo of Ian Dowbiggin
Photo of Ian Dowbiggin
(Historically, one of the recurring arguments in psychiatr...)
Historically, one of the recurring arguments in psychiatry has been that heredity is the root cause of mental illness. In Inheriting Madness, Ian Dowbiggin traces the rise in popularity of hereditarianism in France during the second half of the nineteenth century to illuminate the nature and evolution of psychiatry during this period. In Dowbiggin's mind, this fondness for hereditarianism stemmed from the need to reconcile two counteracting factors. On the one hand, psychiatrists were attempting to expand their power and privileges by excluding other groups from the treatment of the mentally ill. On the other hand, medicine's failure to effectively diagnose, cure, and understand the causes of madness made it extremely difficult for psychiatrists to justify such an expansion. These two factors, Dowbiggin argues, shaped the way psychiatrists thought about insanity, encouraging them to adopt hereditarian ideas, such as the degeneracy theory, to explain why psychiatry had failed to meet expectations.
(The timely, provocative bestseller that inflamed public o...)
The timely, provocative bestseller that inflamed public opinion and made the national news at the time of its release. In this careful and incisive book, Ian Dowbiggin charts the migration of paranoid thinking and conspiratorial fantasy from the right-wing political fringe to the very center of politics and culture in Canada and the United States. Once the domain of conspiracy theorists, paranoid thinking now represents a mainstream response to our loss of faith in our institutions, politicians, communities, and families. Dowbiggin finds support for his thesis in the positions of everyone from Quebec sovereigntists to gender feminists and recovered memory survivors to members of the Solar Temple cult. He cites not just the paranoia of such clearly disturbed people as Timothy McVeigh and Marc Lepine, but of such culturally central figures as Bill Clinton, and Jerry Seinfeld. Paranoid thinking has become an intractable feature of North American life and can only become even more widespread in the years to come.
(While it may seem that debates over euthanasia began with...)
While it may seem that debates over euthanasia began with Jack Kervorkian, the practice of mercy killing extends back to Ancient Greece and beyond. In America, the debate has raged for well over a century. Now, in A Merciful End, Ian Dowbiggin offers the first full-scale historical account of one of the most controversial reform movements in America. Drawing on unprecedented access to the archives of the Euthanasia Society of America, interviews with important figures in the movement today, and flashpoint cases such as the tragic fate of Karen Ann Quinlan, Dowbiggin tells the dramatic story of the men and women who struggled throughout the twentieth century to change the nation's attitude - and its laws - regarding mercy killing. In tracing the history of the euthanasia movement, he documents its intersection with other progressive social causes: women's suffrage, birth control, abortion rights, as well as its uneasy pre-WWII alliance with eugenics. Such links brought euthanasia activists into fierce conflict with Judeo-Christian institutions who worried that "the right to die" might become a "duty to die." Indeed, Dowbiggin argues that by joining a sometimes overzealous quest to maximize human freedom with a desire to "improve" society, the euthanasia movement has been dogged by the fear that mercy killing could be extended to persons with disabilities, handicapped newborns, unconscious geriatric patients, lifelong criminals, and even the poor.
(What would bring a physician to conclude that sterilizati...)
What would bring a physician to conclude that sterilization is an appropriate treatment for the mentally ill and mentally handicapped? Using archival sources, Ian Robert Dowbiggin documents the involvement of both American and Canadian psychiatrists in the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century. He explains why professional men and women committed to helping those less fortunate than themselves arrived at such morally and intellectually dubious conclusions. Psychiatrists at the end of the nineteenth century felt professionally vulnerable, Dowbiggin explains because they were under intense pressure from state and provincial governments and from other physicians to reform their specialty. Eugenic ideas, which dominated public health policymaking, seemed the best vehicle for catching up with the progress of science. Among the prominent psychiatrist-eugenicists Dowbiggin considers are G. Alder Blumer, Charles Kirk Clarke, Thomas Salmon, Clare Hincks, and William Partlow.
(This deeply informed history traces the controversial rec...)
This deeply informed history traces the controversial record of mercy-killing, a source of heated debate among doctors and laypeople alike. Dowbiggin examines evolving opinions about what constitutes a good death, taking into account the societal and religious values placed on sin, suffering, resignation, judgment, penance, and redemption. He also examines the bitter struggle between those who stress a right to compassionate and effective end-of-life care, and those who define human life in terms of either biological criteria, utilitarian standards, a faith in science, humane medical treatment, the principle of personal autonomy, or individual human rights. Considering both the influence of technological and behavioral changes in the practice of medicine and the public's surprising lack of awareness of death's many clinical and biological dimensions, this book raises profound personal and collective questions on the future of euthanasia.
(Many would be surprised to learn that the preferred metho...)
Many would be surprised to learn that the preferred method of birth control in the United States today is actually surgical sterilization. This book takes a historical look at the sterilization movement in post-World War II America, a revolution in modern contraceptive behavior. Focusing on leaders of the sterilization movement from the 1930s through the turn of the century, this book explores the historic linkages between environment, civil liberties, eugenics, population control, sex education, marriage counseling, and birth control movements in the 20th-century United States. Sterilization has been variously advocated as a medical procedure for defusing the "population bomb," expanding individual rights, liberating women from the fear of pregnancy, strengthening marriage, improving the quality of life of the mentally disabled, or reducing the incidence of hereditary disorders.
(This is the story of one of the most far-reaching human e...)
This is the story of one of the most far-reaching human endeavors in history: the quest for mental well-being. From its origins in the eighteenth century to its wide scope in the early twenty-first, this search for emotional health and welfare has cost billions. In the name of mental health, millions around the world have been tranquilized, institutionalized, psycho-analyzed, sterilized, lobotomized, and even euthanized. Yet at the dawn of the new millennium, reported rates of depression and anxiety are unprecedentedly high. Drawing on years of field research, Ian Dowbiggin argues that if the quest for emotional well-being has reached a crisis point in the twenty-first century, it is because mass society is enveloped by the cultures of therapists and consumerism, which increasingly advocate bureaucratic and managerial approaches to health and welfare.
(Why are Americans so bad at marriage? It's certainly not ...)
Why are Americans so bad at marriage? It's certainly not for lack of trying. By the early 21st century Americans were spending billions on marriage and family counseling, seeking advice and guidance from some 50,000 experts. And yet, the divorce rate suggests that all of this therapeutic intervention isn't making couples happier or marriages more durable. Quite the contrary, Ian Dowbiggin tells us in this thought-provoking book: the "caring industry" is part of the problem. Under the influence of therapeutic reformers, marital and familial dynamics in this country have shifted from mores and commitment to love and companionship. This movement toward a "me marriage," as the New York Times has termed it, with its attendant soaring expectations and acute dissatisfactions, is rooted as much in the twists and turns of 20th-century history as it is in the realities in the hearts and minds of modern Americans, Dowbiggin argues; and his book reveals how effectively those changes have been encouraged and orchestrated by a small but resourceful group of social reformers with ties to eugenics, birth control, population control, and sex education. In The Search for Domestic Bliss, Dowbiggin delves into the stories of the usual suspects in the founding of the therapeutic gospel, exposing little known aspects of their influence and misunderstood features of their work.
(In years to come, we shall probably look back at the 1980...)
In years to come, we shall probably look back at the 1980s as one of the most important and controversial decades in the history of public education in North America. With the publication in April 1983 of the National Commission on Excellence in Education's (NCEE) report titled A Nation at Risk, there began in the United States what some observers have dubbed the "Great School Debate." The NCEE report, commissioned by T.H. Bell, then secretary of education, warned Americans that their schools were threatened by "a rising tide of mediocrity." A Nation at Risk claimed that this situation would prove calamitous for America if the country did not reassert its commitment to learning. The stakes were high, according to the report: America stood to lose its "slim competitive edge... in world markets" if it did not train its citizens in the literacy and occupational skills necessary for survival in the anticipated "information age."
(During the last quarter-century many writers have begun t...)
During the last quarter-century many writers have begun to challenge the legitimacy of the medical profession in general, and psychiatry in particular. Among these are thinkers such as Ivan Illich, Christopher Lasch, Michael Foucault, R.D. Laing, and Thomas Szasz. Although they disagree on some points, they all agree that the medicalization of society in the last 150 years has not improved public health. They concur that Western nation-states have given physicians unwarranted political, social, and moral authority to intervene in our personal lives and the lives of our families. They further maintain that with its growing influence and power, medicine has steadily eroded our autonomy and self-reliance, encouraging us to depend on supposed experts to organize and manage our lives.
Ian holds a Bachelor of Arts from McMaster University, a Master of Arts from the University of Toronto, and a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Rochester.
Ian Robert Dowbiggin is an academic historian and professor of history at the University of Prince Edward Island.
He is the author of many books including The Quest for Mental Health: A Tale of Science, Medicine, Scandal, Sorrow, and Mass Society, A Concise History of Euthanasia: Life, Death, God, and Medicine, A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in Modern America, Suspicious Minds: The Triumph of Paranoia in Everyday Life, Keeping America Sane: Psychiatry and Eugenics in the United States and Canada, 1880-1940, and Inheriting Madness: Professionalization and Psychiatric Knowledge in 19th Century France.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(What would bring a physician to conclude that sterilizati...)2003
(In years to come, we shall probably look back at the 1980...)2014
(During the last quarter-century many writers have begun t...)2014
(While it may seem that debates over euthanasia began with...)2002
(This deeply informed history traces the controversial rec...)2005
(Many would be surprised to learn that the preferred metho...)2008
(Historically, one of the recurring arguments in psychiatr...)1991
(The timely, provocative bestseller that inflamed public o...)1999
(This is the story of one of the most far-reaching human e...)2011
(Why are Americans so bad at marriage? It's certainly not ...)2014
In his work, Dowbiggin traces the rise in popularity of hereditarianism in France during the second half of the nineteenth century to illuminate the nature and evolution of psychiatry during this period.
In Dowbiggin's mind, this fondness for hereditarianism stemmed from the need to reconcile two counteracting factors. On the one hand, psychiatrists were attempting to expand their power and privileges by excluding other groups from the treatment of the mentally ill. On the other hand, medicine's failure to effectively diagnose, cure, and understand the causes of madness made it extremely difficult for psychiatrists to justify such an expansion. These two factors, Dowbiggin argues, shaped the way psychiatrists thought about insanity, encouraging them to adopt hereditarian ideas, such as the degeneracy theory, to explain why psychiatry had failed to meet expectations. Hereditarian theories, in turn, provided evidence of the need for psychiatrists to assume more authority, resources, and cultural influence.
Dowbiggin has spoken against euthanasia legislation.
Dowbiggin is a member of the Royal Society of Canada.