He started his professional career as Assistant Medical Officer at the Earlswood Asylum, where he was influenced by the reforming practice of its Superintendent John Langdon Down. Along with Down, Shuttleworth was part of a wave of 19th century reformers in mental health care and treatment that included John Conolly and Édouard Séguin.
Shuttleworth was promoted to Medical Superintendent at the Royal Albert Asylum in Lancaster, where he remained 23 years. Here, he developed his methods for training and educating people with learning disabilities.
He was also an important campaigner on education for the learning disabled. He advised on the Idiots Act of 1886, which first differentiated between those with learning disabilities and the insane. The Act made it possible to give children with learning disabilities special education. He was a member of the Departmental Committee of the Board of Education whose report led to the Defective and Epileptic Children Act of 1899.
From 1899-1901 Shuttleworth was a Medical Examiner for the School Board in London and continued to develop his educational methods for children with learning disabilities. Along with his (mainly female) team he trained other professionals in his methods. His book, Mentally Deficient Children was the standard text on the subject and ran to five editions from1895-1922. The British Medical Journal suggested that the book was so widely read that “there can be few psychiatrists throughout the civilised world to whom his name is not familiar”.
The digitised Shuttleworth papers include:
- some clinical notes from Earlswood Asylum
- research notes on mental diseases and their causes
- notes on children with learning disabilities
The original papers may be consulted at the Wellcome Library.
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The digitised George Shuttleworth papers are available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license. They can be freely downloaded and reused for non-commercial purposes, so long as attribution is given to Wellcome Library.
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