The Rise and Fall of America's Premier Mental Hospital

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Sylvia Plath. Anne Sexton. Robert Lowell. In addition to being great writers, these three Americans have something else in common: they all spent time at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. Some of the other prominent names that have appeared on the McLean roster include "A Beautiful Mind" subject John Nash; Central Park designer Frederick Olmstead, and singer James Taylor.While several of McLean's alumni may have notable stories, the story of the hospital itself is the subject of Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam's new book, "Gracefully Insane." In tracing the history of the hospital, Beam also traces the history of science's understanding of mental illness and the sometimes cruel and bizarre treatments that have been considered cutting edge at various times over the past two centuries.

This hour, America's evolving understanding mental illness — and the history of one hospital that has been at the forefront of that understanding.


Alex Beam, Boston Globe columnist and author of "Gracefully Insane: The Rise and Fall of America's Premier Mental Hospital"

This program aired on February 25, 2002.


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