Down's Syndrome: The History of a Disability

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Overview

For 150 years, Down's Syndrome has constituted the archetypal mental disability, easily recognisable by distinct facial anomalies and physical stigmata. In a narrow medical sense, Down's syndrome is a common disorder caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 21st chromosome. It is named after John Langdon Down, the British asylum medical superintendent who described the syndrome as Mongolism in a series of lectures in 1866. In 1959, the disorder was identified as a chromosome 21 trisomy by the French paediatrician and geneticist Jérôme Lejeune and has since been known as Down's Syndrome (in the English-speaking world) or Trisomy 21 (in many European countries). But children and adults born with this chromosomal abnormality have an important collective history beyond their evident importance to the history of medical science.

David Wright, a Professor in the History of Medicine at McMaster University, looks at the care and treatment of Down's sufferers - described for much of history as 'idiots', - from Medieval Europe to the present day. The discovery of the genetic basis of the condition and the profound changes in attitudes, care, and early identification of Down's in the genetic era, reflects the fascinating medical and social history of the disorder.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"David Wright has written a concise, yet thorough, overview of Down syndrome-from its changing history to the ethical quandary that our current knowledge provides us." — Bulletin of the History of Medicine
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199567935
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/25/2011
  • Series: Biographies of Diseases Series
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,404,409
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Dr. David Wright received his D.Phil. in Modern History from the University of Oxford and then specialised, as a Wellcome Trust post-doctoral fellow, in the history of medicine. He is currently the Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada, a joint position between the Department of History and the Department of Psychiatry. Dr Wright is the author and editor of six books on the history of mental health and psychiatry, including the first scholarly volume on the history of mental disability: (with Anne Digby, eds.) From Idiocy to Mental Deficiency: Historical Perspectives on People with Learning Disabilities (Routledge, 1996).

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Table of Contents

Prologue: case study
1. Mental disability before the dawn of the modern era
2. Englightenment thought and the education of the 'idiot' child
3. Asylums for 'idiots'
4. John Langdon Down and Mongolism
5. Special schools and the IQ test
6. 'Racial hygiene' and the sterilzation of the 'feebleminded'
7. Down's in the genetic era
8. Deinstitionalization and prenatal screening
Glossary
Further reading

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