The founding fathers of psychopathology

The founding fathers of psychopathology

Psychopathology is the science that studies abnormal behavior, as well as its main causes and characteristics. A long way has been traveled to make it a remarkable and respectable science in the scientific world. In this article we introduce you to founding fathers of psychopathology. And, although there are some more, we present the main ones and their most representative contributions.

The founding fathers of psychopathology

Then, We introduce you to those people who laid the foundations of what today is a living science and in continuous expansion. They did not have it easy, but some of their research helped us better understand human behavior almost without means, hence the merit of their work.

Johann Weyer

Johann Weyer

Johann Weyer (1515-1588), a Dutch doctor, is usually named as the father of psychiatrysince it was he who made an official opposition criticism of demonology in his book "From Praestigiis Daemonum". Weyer proposed the need for medical treatment and was one of the precursors of psychotherapy based on therapeutic treatment, interpretation / understanding and observation of behaviors. Influence in the psychiatric medical field, for patients who had previously been considered as sorcerers.

Franz Anton Mesmer

Franz Anton Mesmer

The German Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815) defended the power and existence of the unconscious, but failed to develop his idea. He favored the idea that the somatic and mental phenomena of the human being were influenced by external and internal forces. Besides, he said that man possessed magnetic forces. He promoted the use and expansion of hypnosis as a therapeutic method and suggestive.

He performed his treatments by placing magnets in the body of their patients, to induce an "artificial current" that would relieve symptoms.

He concluded that it was impossible that, only by magnets, the symptoms had been cured, so he hypothesized that the human being possessed an accumulated magnetic fluid by himself. This would be released with the help of the magnets used, which he called "animal magnetism."

Morel and Magnan

Valentin Magnan

In the 19th century, "organicism" had a great impact on psychiatry and the analysis of mental illnesses.. Griesinger, in 1845, emphasized the capital importance of damage to the brain, to the detriment of the so-called "cultural variables." Following this line, the French Morel and Magnan complete the locationist idea of ​​the disorders in the brain, with its "degenerative theory".

The degenerative theory consisted of genetic deterioration, which would lead to a progressive "involution" that would go from neurosis to psychosis, ending in total intellectual disability.

Bénédict Augustin Morel

It was said that this process was degenerative because the affected people had no option to cure. In addition, they claimed that he had a hereditary factor that would get worse with future generations. This theory was accepted by several professionals, although at the end of the century it was losing influence, since the inheritance - by itself - was not enough to explain all the casuistry present at the time.

Emil Kraepelin: Perhaps the most important of the founding fathers of modern psychopathology

Dr. Emil Kraepelin, an important German psychiatrist of the nineteenth century, will be very influential in modern psychiatry. Is he creator of a new classification scheme for mental disorders, which served as the basis for current systems. To carry out this classification, it was not based on the study of lesions in specific areas of the nervous system, but rather on the alterations that were manifested clinically with respect to behavior.

Emil Kraepelin

Some of his most important contributions They are:

  • Publication of 'Psychiatry''text that has nine editions
  • Define early dementia depending on the chronicity of its course and the difference in manic depressive psychosis
  • He demonstrated the importance of observation during the course of a pathology in time (longitudinal studies).

Phillipe Pinel

In France, after the French Revolution, one of the most important exponents in psychiatry appears, Phillipe Pinel, who developed as director of the hospital of La Bicétre and then in La Salpétriere.

Philippe Pinel

He was responsible for giving adequate treatment to the sick and improved several aspects of these centers, from infrastructure and decoration to morality, through food and hygiene.

His most important contributions are the classification of symptoms depending on the disorders and the practice of moral treatment.

Pinel proposed three principles to carry out the "moral treatment": be nice with the patient and show understanding, feel sympathy by the patient and give alternatives along with forms of encouragement to provide confidence to lead a better lifestyle thanks to the interaction with society.

The purpose of this treatment was to "stabilize" the patient through their own reasoning. and academic content of the doctor, in order to encourage the analysis of the aspects that started from the disorder. The results of this type of intervention were immediate and outstanding.

This author was responsible for classifying the types of madness in his first work "Nosographie Philosophique ":

  • Melancholic: alteration of intellectual performance
  • Mania: exaggerated excitement with or without delusions
  • Dementia: thought disorders
  • Idiocy: Damage of intellectual abilities and affections

This researcher, although little known, is one of the main founding fathers of psychopathology, along with Kraepelin.

Jean Étienne Dominique Esquirol

Jean Étienne Dominique Esquirol

This disciple of Pinel, He continues his teacher's work and promotes psychiatry as a more specific science.

Esquirol gives a new vision based on the collection of information obtained from different cases presented in statistical forms with a systematic structure in order to evaluate the progress of patients after starting the therapeutic process.

Being co-director of La Salpétriere, he is related to the medical area and, in this way, manages to establish relationships with pathology. In addition to these contributions founded other psychiatric centers in France, and worked as a teacher of this new doctrine.


Peña-Herrera, B. (2018) General Psychopathology. Samborondón: Espiritu Santo University - Ecuador.