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.
 (October 2018)

IN THE REVIEW

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.