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Hack Tuke, Daniel

Category: Healer


Daniel Hack Tuke, M.D., M.R.C.P (19 April 1827 – 5 March 1895) was an English physician, Quaker and expert on mental illness.

He was the author of a book entitled Illustrations Of The Influence Of The Mind Upon The Body In Health And Disease, Designed To Elucidate The Action Of The Imagination .

The book deals with the efficacy of psychosomatic medicine and in addition the puzzling nature of the placebo effect:

Because effects are produced and cures performed by means of a mental condition …… it is constantly assumed that these results are imaginary., …. …. But the fact remains, ….  It matters little to the patient by what name the remedy is called, whether "Imagination," or some of the many "pathies" of the day. It is emphatically a case in which "a rose by any other name will smell as sweet." But to the philosophical practitioner it ought to matter a great deal ; it ought to be a question of exceeding interest.

It also discusses the ability of the mind to do the opposite, to produce dis-ease and illness, in other words emotional hurt can produce physical effects

Overall, the main aim of the book was to cure the cause of illness and not simply alleviate the symptoms.  As such we can classify him as a healer. 

He stated the objectives of the book as follows, and we have turned to his examples for observations:

Illustrations Of The Influence Of The Mind Upon The Body In Health And Disease

1 . To collect together in one volume authentic Illustrations of the influence of the Mind upon the Body, scattered through various medical and other works, however familiar to many these cases may be, supplemented by those falling within my own knowledge.

2. To give these cases fresh interest and value by arranging them on a definite physiological basis.

3. To show the power and extent of this influence not only in health in causing Disorders of Sensation, Motion, and the Organic Functions, but also its importance as a 'practical remedy in disease’.

4. To ascertain as far as possible the channels through and the mode by which this influence is exerted.

5. To elucidate, by this inquiry, the nature and action of what is usually understood as the Imagination.

Daniel was the joint author of "The Manual of Psychological Medicine;" a foreign associate of the Medico-Psychological society of Paris; a lecturer on psychological medicine at the York School of Medicine; and visiting medical officer to the York Retreat.   The York Retreat was an institution for the care and cure of the insane, which was ‘conducted on principles of humanity’, then almost unknown in such institutions.  

The Tuke family

Daniel came from an illustrious line of healer/philanthropists.  His great great-grandfather, William Tuke was one of the early converts of George Fox, and in 1660 was imprisoned for his Quakerism.  In 1629, William moved to York, and from then on the Tuke family continued to live in York as Quakers. 

William Tuke Junior and Henry Tuke

William Tuke (1732-1822) Daniel’s great grandfather and Daniel’s grandfather Henry Tuke co-founded and ran the York Retreat, which revolutionized the treatment of insane people. 

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 27
William Tuke (1732-1822) was born at York on the 24th of March 1732. His name is connected with the humane treatment of the insane, for whose care he projected in 1792 the Retreat at York, which became famous as an institution in which a bold attempt was made to manage lunatics without the excessive restraints then regarded as essential. The asylum was entirely under the management of the Society of Friends. Its success led to more stringent legislation in the interests of the insane.  His son Henry Tuke (1755-1814) co-operated with his father in the reforms at the York Retreat. He was the author of several moral and theological treatises which have been translated into German and French.

The Retreat, commonly known as the York Retreat, still exists for the treatment of people with mental health needs. Located in Lamel Hill in York, it operates as a not for profit charitable organisation. — Opened in 1796, it is famous for having pioneered the so-called "moral treatment" that became a model for asylums around the world

Samuel Tuke

The care provided by this institution and the study of the problems of insanity became a continued preoccupation of the Tuke family.  Daniel’s father, Samuel Tuke, carried on the work of the York Retreat and reported on its methods and its results; he was reviewed in the Edinburgh Review by Sydney Smith under the heading of "Mad Quakers"!  He was also the editor of Dr. Maximilian Jacobi's work on Asylums for the Insane. Samuel became a leading member of the Society of Friends and also became involved in educational and social questions; he is said to “have taken an active part in various societies and institutions for the promotion of the good of his fellow-men”.


1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 27
Henry's son Samuel Tuke (1784-1857), born at York on the 31st of July 1784, greatly advanced the cause of the amelioration of the condition of the insane, and devoted himself largely to the York Retreat, the methods of treatment pursued in which he made more widely known by his Description of the Retreat near York, &c. (York, 1813). He also published Practical Hints on the Construction and Economy of Pauper Lunatic Asylums (1815). He died at York on the 14th of October 1857.

James Hack Tuke

Daniel was the youngest son of Samuel Tuke and Priscilla Hack, his wife.  Daniel's older brother James Hack Tuke (1819–1896) was the next overseer of the York Retreat.  He was a Quaker, a banker and a philanthropist.

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 27
Samuel's son James Hack Tuke (1819-1896) was born at York on the 13th of September 1819. He was educated at the Friends' school there, and after working for a time in his father's wholesale tea business, became in 1852 a partner in the banking firm of Sharples and Co., and went to live at Hitchin in Hertfordshire.

For eighteen years he was treasurer of the Friends' Foreign Mission Association, and for eight years chairman of the Friends' Central Education Board. But he is chiefly remembered for his philanthropic work in Ireland.

Throughout the nineteenth century the west of Ireland experienced frequent subsistence crises and famines, as the region’s resources were incapable of supporting its large population. During the Great Famine the contributions of private charities such as the Society of Friends played a major role in alleviating the distress in areas such as Letterfrack and the Mullet. Thereafter a close relationship developed between the Quakers and the west, exemplified in the activities of James Hack Tuke. Heavily involved with relief operations during the Great Famine, his connections with Connemara continued into the 1880s.

'Tuke' emigrants departing from Clifden

Encyclopaedia Britannica
His work in Ireland was in a great measure the result of a visit to Connaught In 1847, and of the scenes of distress which he there witnessed. In addition to relief, his eye-witness testimony proved invaluable in bringing further relief to the west of Ireland.  In 1880, accompanied by WE Forster, he spent two months in the West of Ireland distributing relief which had been privately subscribed by Friends in England.
The failure of the potato crop in Ireland in 1885 again called forth Tuke's energy, and on the invitation of the government, aided by public subscription, he purchased and distributed seed potatoes in order to avert a famine. To his reports of this distribution and his letters to The Times, which were reprinted under the title The Condition of Donegal (1889), were due in a great measure the bill passed for the construction of light railways in 1889 and the Irish Land Act which established the Congested Districts Board in 1891.

An evicted family on the road in Connemara. The crisis of 1879–80—when the potato
crop failed, seasonal migration remittances declined and the kelp industry suffered
from foreign competition—was exacerbated by large-scale evictions.
(Illustrated London News, 20 March 1880)

Tuke also distributed £1,000 in relief in the most destitute areas. He concluded that there had been no major improvement in the position of the people since the 1840s and that the provision of relief during crisis periods was not the long-term panacea. Tuke realised that local resources, and in particular agriculture, could not sustain such a large population. Emigration was the long-term solution to the congestion and destitution, but it would only be effective if whole families (rather than individuals) left, as that would allow holdings to be consolidated into viable, economic farms.

The departure of Irish emigrants from Connacht.

In the summer of 1880 Tuke spent two months in the United States and Canada to ascertain the most suitable areas (where there was a strong demand for labour with high wage rates) for the settlement of Irish emigrants. Much of his time was spent in the mid-west and Manitoba, and he concluded that these areas offered opportunities for new emigrants, as they were being opened up for economic development by the railway companies. Tuke also met Canadian officials, who assured him that they would support and help in the integration of any emigrants sent to its jurisdiction. Tuke returned to Britain intent on promoting Irish emigration to Canada and the mid-west.

His letters in The Times, and in his pamphlet, Irish Distress and its Remedies (1880), helped to bring the problems into the public eye and start the process leading to solutions for what he believed to be economic rather than political difficulties.  He advocated state-aid for those people able to benefit from it and family emigration for the poorest peasants who could not. From 1882 to 1884 he worked continuously in Ireland superintending the emigration of poor families to the United States and the Colonies.


York Retreat in the early 1900s

In other words the whole Hack Tuke family were involved in philanthropy and healing for several hundred years, pioneering more humane ways of handling mental illness and finding ways of addressing and curing illness by studying its root cause in the mind.

We now know that severe distress or stress can affect the immune system, as such there is a very physical and proven link between negative emotions and illness – disease; but Daniel and his family studied in much more detail how emotions and disease were related, which types of emotional hurt contributed to which types of physical illness.  Daniel quotes John Hunter in his book:

There is not a natural action in the Body, whether involuntary or voluntary, that may not be influenced by the peculiar state of the mind at the time.



Daniel Hack Tuke (1827-1895), younger brother of James Hack Tuke, was born at York on the 19th of April 1827.

Daniel Tuke entered the office of a solicitor at Bradford, in 1845, but in 1847 began work at the York Retreat. Entering St Bartholomew's Hospital in London in 1850, he became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1852, and graduated M.D. at Heidelberg in 1853.

In 1853 he married Esther Maria Stickney (1826–1917). They had three children, the second son being Henry Scott Tuke RA (1858–1929).

In 1853 he visited a number of foreign asylums, and later returning to York he became visiting physician to the York Retreat and the York Dispensary, lecturing also to the York School of Medicine on mental diseases.

In 1859 ill health obliged him to give up his work, and for the next fourteen years he lived at Falmouth. In 1875, he settled in London as a specialist in mental diseases.

In 1858, in collaboration with John Charles Bucknill, he published a Manual of Psychological Medicine, which was for many years regarded as a standard work on lunacy. In 1872 he published his most influential and popular book on the influence of the mind upon the body in health and disease. In 1880 he became joint editor of the Journal of Mental Science.

Photograph of the painter Henry Scott Tuke (wearing hat) with
his father Daniel Hack Tuke (seated) and brother
William Samuel Tuke 1879 [Tate gallery]

In 1892 - in co-operation with many others as contributors including the French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot - he edited a Dictionary of Psychological Medicine in 2 volumes.

He died on 5 March 1895 and was buried at the Quaker Burial Ground, Saffron Walden.

Again and again we exclaim, when some new nostrum, powerless in itself, effects a cure, " It's only the Imagination !" We attribute to this remarkable mental influence a power which ordinary medicines have failed to exert, and yet are content, with a shrug of the shoulders, to dismiss the circumstance from our minds without further thought.
I want medical men who are in active practice to utilize this force, to yoke it to the car of the Son of Apollo, and rescuing it from the eccentric orbits of quackery, force it to tread, with measured step, the orderly paths of legitimate medicine.



Among his works were:

  • Illustrations of the Influence of the Mind on the Body (1872)
  • Insanity in Ancient and Modern Life (1878)
  • History of the Insane in the British Isles (1882)
  • Sleepwalking and Hypnotism (1884)
  • Past and Present Provision for the Insane Poor in Yorkshire (1889)
  • Dictionary of Psychological Medicine (1892).

The Retreat in York today


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