Innovations in the treatment of the mentally ill developed gradually, always against the tide of public approval. From the Middle Ages to the 20th Century, a few pioneers have succeeded in effecting significant changes in the care of mental defectives and in the attitude of society. Whether motivated by a reaction to the excesses of injustice, by a spirit of reform, or by science itself, these men and women paved the way for the spectacular advances in past decades. Here their stories are told against the background of the times and interwoven as they influence each other. We begin with Hippocrates who first recognized insanity as a disease, Johann Wyer who called witchcraft a mania, Philippe Pinel, William Tuke and Chiarugi, all of whom instituted asylum reforms and the notion of kindness and care. Mesmer and his theory of magnetism, Charcot, Janet and Freud, responsible for revolutionary scientific discoveries are all covered in terms palatable to the layman. Definitely a most readable account with wide pertinence to our day and age.