Dr. David Wright
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 of History
at the Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill University, looks at the changing social responses to Down Syndrome from Medieval Europe to the present day in the first ever history of Down Syndrome.
Prologue: case study
1. The philosopher's idiot
2. Mongols in our midst
3. The Simian Crease
4. Trisomie vingt-et-un
5. Into the mainstream
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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 a Professor of History at the Institute for Health and Social Policy, at McGill University. 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,