Jean Pierre Falret's once celebrated but now neglected 1854 description
of "circular insanity" has not been translated into English until now. This
seminal essay clearly articulated for the first time the rudimentary
elements of our present diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder. It
contains lucid descriptions of manic excitement and depression and the
"switch" from one to the other; moreover, it emphasizes the importance of
course and prognosis, as well as hereditary and epidemiologic factors.
Although American psychiatry instinctively looks to the German literature
for its foundations in Kraepelin, Bleuler, and Freud, the translation of
Falret's essay represents an effort to trace contemporary psychiatric
concepts to their origins in nineteenth-century France.