Silas Weir Mitchell

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Mitchell, Silas Weir,

1829–1914, American physician and author, b. Philadelphia, M.D. Jefferson Medical College, 1850, studied in Paris. A pioneer in the application of psychology to medicine, he won special fame for his treatment of nervous disorders and for his study of the nervous system. His medical works include treatises on snake venom and neurology, as well as Injuries of Nerves and Their Consequences (1872) and Fat and Blood (1877), which summarizes his well-known rest cure. Among his novels are historical romances (Hugh Wynne, Free Quaker, 1896) and psychological studies (Constance Trescot, 1905). He wrote several volumes of poetry and interspersed lyrics in his novels.


See biography by J. P. Lovering (1971).

Mitchell, Silas Weir

(1829–1914) physician, writer, poet; born in Philadelphia. After taking his M.D. from Jefferson Medical College, he continued his medical studies in France, then returned to Philadelphia to practice. During the Civil War, he served as a surgeon for the Union army and collaborated on an important work, Gunshot Wounds and Other Injuries of Nerves (1864). In the ensuing decades he specialized in neurology and wrote some 120 articles in that field, but he also did work in toxicology, physiology, and pharmacology. He was a pioneer in advocating the "rest cure" and other psychological approaches to nervous conditions, and he made the Philadelphia Orthopedic Hospital into a major center for treating nervous disorders. Meanwhile, he had been writing fiction and poetry since the end of the Civil War; his first published story, "The Case of George Dedlow" (1866), was notable for conveying the mental state of a soldier about to enter combat. His collected works would eventually add up to 16 volumes, including once widely read novels such as Roland Blake (1886) and Hugh Wayne, Free Quaker (1897), greatly admired for their psychological insights.
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Granted, this is a minor quibble, especially given the fact that he does discuss, for example, such often ignored pieces as Gunshot Wounds by Silas Weir Mitchell or The Gates Ajar by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, along with such underrated personalities as Mitchell and Higginson.
The book is divided into nine parts, covering; Contact, Pleasure, Pain, Male Bonding, Women's Touch, Control, Uncommon Touch, Tactile Therapies, and Touch and Technology, and each one is populated by writings from authors as diverse as Silas Weir Mitchell (the nineteenth century neurologist who pioneered the 'rest cure method'), Donna Harraway and Klaus Theweleit.
There's nothing that is light about ``The Razor,'' which finds miserable town barber Tamekichi (Silas Weir Mitchell, quite frightening) looking for a way, any way, out of the monotony of his life.