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Isaac Ray.

Isaac Ray (January 16, 1807 – March 31, 1881)[1] was an American psychiatrist, one of the founders of the discipline of forensic psychiatry. In 1838, he published A Treatise on the Medical Jurisprudence of Insanity (Boston), which served as an authoritative text for many years.[2]


A native of Beverly, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Phillips Academy (class of 1822), Ray received his medical degree in 1827 from the Medical College of Maine (Bowdoin College) and attempted to establish a general practice in Portland, Maine. When this venture failed, he moved to the coastal village of Eastport, where he practiced, taught, and wrote his "Treatise on the Medical Jurisprudence of Insanity," published in 1838. After several years in Eastport, he was appointed Superintendent of the State Hospital for the Insane in Augusta in 1841. In 1845 he moved to Providence, Rhode Island, to supervise the building of the private Butler Hospital and became its first Superintendent. Prior to Butler Hospital's receiving patients in 1847, Ray toured the asylums of Europe, reporting his findings in the "American Journal of Insanity." In 1867, he moved to an active retirement in Philadelphia.[2]

The Treatise on the Medical Jurisprudence of Insanity was very influential and was deployed effectively by defense lawyer Sir Alexander Cockburn in the English trial of Daniel M'Naghten in 1843. At the trial, Cockburn quoted extensively from the book which rejected traditional views of the insanity defense based on the defendant's ability to distinguish "right from wrong" in favour of a broader approach based on causation.[3]

One of the founding members of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, he served as President from 1855 to 1859. Between 1828 and 1880, except for one year he published at least one article every year, mainly dealing with insanity and its legal implications. Ray also published several important monographs, including Mental Hygiene (Boston, 1863) and Contributions to Mental Pathology (Boston, 1873).[2]

In 1868, the Superintendents’ Association adopted his "Project of a Law," which recommended statutory enactment to secure the rights of the mentally ill and define the civil and criminal relationships of the insane.[4]

Honoring him Isaac Ray Award was established in 1951, is an annual award that recognizes a person who has made outstanding contributions to forensic psychiatry or psychiatric jurisprudence. presented each year at the American Psychological Association (APA) annual meeting,It is a joint award of the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.The prize consists of 1,500 USD and a plaque, the first award winner was Winfred Overholser.[5]


  1. ^ Michael Newton; John L. French (2007). The Encyclopedia of Crime Scene Investigation. Infobase Publishing. p. 227. ISBN 978-0-8160-6814-2. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "19th Century Psychiatrists of Note". Diseases of the Mind: Highlights of American Psychiatry Through 1900. US National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 2007-09-03.
  3. ^ Cornish, W.; Clarke, G. (1989). Law and Society in England 1750–1950. London: Sweet & Maxwell. pp. 603–604. ISBN 0-421-31150-9.
  4. ^ Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (1876) pp. 17–22
  5. ^ "".


  • [Anon.] (1963). "Isaac Ray 1807–1881". Rhode Island medical journal. 46: 425–6. PMID 14043323.
  • Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane (1876) "Propositions and Resolutions" (PDF). (4.39 MiB), Philadelphia
  • Diamond, B. L. (1956). "Isaac Ray and the trial of Daniel M'Naghten". American Journal of Psychiatry. 112 (8): 651–656. doi:10.1176/ajp.112.8.651. PMID 13292555.
  • Hader M. (1965). "Isaac Ray, forensic medicine and geriatric psychiatry". Gerontologist. 5 (4): 268–269. PMID 5322059.
  • Payne H.; Luthe R. (1980). "Isaac Ray and forensic psychiatry in the United States". Forensic Science International. 15 (2): 115–127. doi:10.1016/0379-0738(80)90150-4. PMID 6987135.
  • Quen, J. M. (1977). "Isaac Ray and mental hygiene in America". Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 291: 83–93. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.1977.tb53062.x.