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Tuke's account of his visit to Vienna Asylum - New Facility (1853)

Location: Vienna, Austria

Following his travels in 1853, Daniel Hack Tuke described what he encountered in European asylums in his essay - 'The progressive changes which have taken place since the time of Pinel in the moral management of the insane, and the various contrivances which have been adopted instead of mechanical restraint', published in Rules and list of the present members of the Society for Improving the Condition of the Insane (London : Churchill, 1854). Tuke's description of the asylum in Vienna appears on pages 50-51.


'[In Vienna] a large new asylum has been built under [Dr. Riedel’s] superintendence; and of the good order and efficient management in which I found the asylum I am able to speak in terms of very strong praise. The patients were to a great extent engaged in occupation suited to their habits and tastes, and presented an air of much personal comfort. Mechanical restraint was employed in the form of a camisole, either alone, the patient being at liberty to walk, or in addition to a strap, by which the patient was confined to his bed. There were 336 patients in the house; about an equal proportion of men and women. I saw nine women restrained by the camisole: several of these were also fastened to the bed, in the same manner as at Prague. Only three or four men were the subjects of mechanical restraint; of these, two had the wrists attached to the waistband by means of a leather strap. But, although restraint was thus considerably employed, the general appearance of the patients was highly satisfactory: the wards, including the day and sleeping rooms, were in beautiful order, and a very large number of the patients were engaged in useful occupations; as drawing and writing, tailoring, joinery, shoemaking, and out-of-door work.

There still remains in Vienna the old tower, until recently, famous for the wretched condition of its inmates, who were chained and exposed to public view. It is now used for incurable patients, and although their condition has been ameliorated, it is yet far from satisfactory. A large number are constantly confined to their beds by mechanical means. It is not under the care of Dr. Riedel.'