David Oshinsky is the Director of the Division of ­Medical Humanities at NYU Langone Health and a Professor in the ­Department of History at NYU. His most recent book is Belle­vue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital. (February 2020)


‘The Human Mind Was Not Made for War’

Robert Chamberlain, a veteran of two tours to Iraq and a Rhodes scholar who has struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder, on the day he was promoted to the rank of army major, Brooklyn, 2011

Signature Wounds: The Untold Story of the Military’s Mental Health Crisis

by David Kieran
Almost every major war brings the introduction of a terrifying new weapon. During the US Civil War, Union and Confederate troops employed a revolutionary bullet—known as the Minié ball after its creator, the French army captain Claude-Étienne Minié—that spun from the gun barrel, dramatically increasing its velocity, accuracy, and lethality.

Should We Reopen the Asylums?

An abandoned ward at Kankakee State Hospital, Illinois; photograph by Christopher Payne from his book Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals, 2009

Damnation Island: Poor, Sick, Mad and Criminal in 19th-Century New York

by Stacy Horn

Genetics in the Madhouse: The Unknown History of Human Heredity

by Theodore M. Porter
In 1939 the British physician Lionel Penrose published an article that described an inverse relationship between prisons and asylums—the so-called Penrose Hypothesis. Widely respected in medical circles for his pioneering work on Down syndrome and other hereditary disorders, Penrose was better known for applying mathematical formulas to nagging social issues.