The story of Down’s syndrome
- By: Mary Parkes
In Down’s Syndrome: The Biography, retired GP Chris Nancollas traces the history of Down’s syndrome and psychiatric “care” as far back as 300 BC, more than 2000 years before Langdon Down qualified from the London Hospital and took a job at The Royal Earlswood Asylum for Idiots.
When Down began his medical career, psychiatric patients were divided into “lunatics”—those whose condition began after birth—and “idiots,” who were born with their condition and for whom there was no hope of treatment. Down was almost alone in his study of these patients. His research was the starting point for further study of Trisomy 21, and it was his enlightened attitude that changed the way people with Down’s syndrome were viewed and cared for.
Although Nancollas traces the 20th century advancements in our scientific understanding of the condition, the real story is the change in our social and human understanding of people with