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How Bipolar Disease Was Treated At Wesborough State Hospital In The 40s

The what remains of the main building of the Westborough State Hospital in Westborough. (Drew/Flickr)

The what remains of the main building of the Westborough State Hospital in Westborough. (Drew/Flickr)

When Mimi Baird was six years old, her father disappeared from her life.

“My mother told me he wasn’t coming home,” she says. “It was just, he was ‘away.'”

Her father was the late Dr. Perry Cossart Baird, Jr. He was a Texas-born, Harvard-educated physician — a rising star in Boston’s medical community in the late 1920s and 30s. At the peak of his career, Dr. Baird’s brilliant mind proved to be a tortured one. He was institutionalized for bipolar disease — or, as it was known then, manic depression.

“Of course, back in those days, the little said, the best,” says Baird. “It was a universal gag factor and that was the way most people coped with unpleasant things.”

Dr. Perry Baird died at the age of 56 from complications after he was given a lobotomy. Four decades later, a remarkable chapter in his life’s story arrived on his daughter, Mimi’s, door-step. It was in the form of a manuscript he’d written in 1944 during one of his stays at Westborough State Hospital. The manuscript became the foundation for a book Mimi has written about her father’s career and illness. It’s called, “He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter’s Quest to Know Him.”

Guest

Mimi Baird, author of “He Wanted the Moon: The Madness and Medical Genius of Dr. Perry Baird, and His Daughter’s Quest to Know Him.”.

More

The New York Times: Picking Up A Memoir Of Madness

  • “On an early summer night in 1944, on the wooded shoulder of a rural Massachusetts highway, a man in a rumpled brown suit wandered in the shadows. Whenever a car passed, he dropped to the ground and lay flat. His hair was matted, his face smeared with mud. He was a respectable Boston doctor on the lam, hungry, lost and ill.”

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