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Remembering Oak Ridge

Early Research

Early Research (1933-1975)

Prior to the establishment of the Research Department in 1975, research was not a formal focus of the staff in Penetanguishene. There is evidence, however, that some early pursuits in this area may have tended more towards community education. For example, in the first year of the newly established Criminal Insane division, the Superintendent, physician, and schoolteacher each presented papers to local community groups:  

  • "Early symptoms of mental disease" presented by Dr. D. O. Lynch to the St. Andrew's Medical Society, Midland
  • "Narcotic drug addiction" presented by Dr. D. O. Lynch to the Kiwanis Club, Midland
  • "Experiences in hospital and reformatory service" presented by Dr. D. O. Lynch to the Kiwanis Club, Barrie
  • "Review of commoner psychoses with presentation of cases" presented by Dr. C. E. Hanna and Dr. D. O. Lynch to the Nurses of St. Andrew's Hospital, Midland
  • "Modern educational methods" presented by J. P. Powers to the Kiwanis Clubs of Midland and Penetanguishene

First Publication

The first academic paper on the population of the Criminal Insane Building in Penetanguishene would not be published until 1937. Authored by Dr. D. O. Lynch - who had served as Superintendent in Penetanguishene before being transferred to the Ontario Hospital, Woodstock - it was based on a presentation he had given the year prior to the Weekly Seminar series at the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital.

The paper painted a picture of the criminally insane patients in Penetanguishene as an unknown and misunderstood population. Lynch criticized, in particular, the language that his own discipline used to describe these individuals:

"To me, it is most unfortunate that we have as yet been unable to coin some term or phrase other than the brutal-sounding one, 'Criminally Insane.' This phrase is a misnomer, but how persistently it is used. If the unfortunate one is insane, then he most certainly is not a criminal" (Lynch, 1937, p. 40).

The paper specifically highlighted the characteristics of 50 patients: 43 of whom had been charged with murder, four with attempted murder, and four with manslaughter. Lynch used this sub-population of the division in the late 1930s to discuss the relationship between crime and mental illness, emphasizing the lack of any cause-and-effect type dynamic. He likewise presented the four suicides the division had faced in its earliest years. On the whole, the paper presented a descriptive study of the still relatively new, specialized division and the patient population to which it catered.

There are no other known publications based on the population of the Criminal Insane division in Penetanguishene prior to the 1960s. The topic of criminal insanity, however, did attract attention within the province more broadly. Articles in academic journals of the period tended towards either (1) the legal aspects surrounding a plea of insanity or (2) the testimony of experts, particularly the hospital superintendent, at trial.    

A Growing Focus on Research

When Penetanguishene's specialized division reappeared in the academic journals, it was again the demographics of its patient population, the legal procedings that had led to their admission, and the general operations of the division that drew the focus. Assistant Superintendent Dr. C. K. McKnight led the publication of four articles between 1962 and 1966. Three of the articles were published with his colleague Dr. J. W. Mohr, a Research Associate in the Forensic Clinic of the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital. Other co-authors included Barry B. Swadron, a lawyer based in Toronto, and two social workers: R. E. Quinsey and J. Erochko. The first of the articles focused more on criminal responsibility in relation to the patients in Penetanguishene while the remaining three highlighted specific sub-populations in Penetanguishene: those who were transferred from correctional facilities, those who committed homicide, and those who committed matricide. Echoing Lynch from 30 years prior, these publications emphasized the lack of attention that had been paid to this patient population.

Superintendent Dr. B. A. Boyd likewise began publishing from Oak Ridge around this time, although his articles tended to appear in correctional journals rather than medical journals. His writings  emphasized the treatment programmes in place at the division as well as the role of the psychiatrist in evaluating the mental health of those facing criminal trials and the training of attendants. His publications took more of an advocacy role, using Oak Ridge as a foundation from which to make appeals for additional services within the province or to recommend particular courses of action. As early as 1963, Boyd began using academic journals to call for the expansion of Oak Ridge so that more individuals moving through the criminal system would benefit from psychiatric treatment.   

The publications of the early 1960s coincided with the launch of the new experimental treatment programme at Oak Ridge, the Social Therapy Unit (STU). Together, this early research and novel treatment method helped to set the scene for the establishment of the Research Department.   

By Jennifer L. Bazar

Page Last Updated: June 4, 2015


Ball, L. C. (2010). History of research at Waypoint. Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care website. Retrieved from

Lynch, D. O. (1935). Annual report of the Penetanguishene Hospital for Insane and Criminally Insane for the year ending October 31st, 1933.Sessional Papers, Fifth Session of the Eighteenth Legislature of the Province of Ontario. Toronto, ON: T. E. Bowmein.

Lynch, D. O. (1937). Some observations on the criminally insane with special reference to those charged with murder. Ontario Journal of Neuro-Psychiatry, 12, 39-52.

Boyd, B. A. (1963). Correctional staff training. Canadian Journal of Corrections, 5, 343-346.

Boyd, B. A. (1964). Our jails and the psychiatric examination and treatment of the disturbed offender. Canadian Journal of Corrections, 6, 477-479.

McKnight, C. K., Mohr, J. W., & Swadron, B. B. (1962a). The mentally ill offender in the Oak Ridge hospital unit. Criminal Law Quarterly, 5, 248-258.

McKnight, C. K. (1962b). Male patients transferred from reform and penal settings in Ontario to mental jospital. Canadian Journal of Corrections, 5, 262-270.

McKnight, C. K., Mohr, J. W., & Quinsey, R. E. (1966a). Mental illness and homicide. Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, 11(2), 91-98.

McKnight, C. K., Mohr, J. W., Quinsey, R. E., & Erochko, J. (1966b). Matricide and mental illness. Canadian Psychiatric Association Journal, 11(2), 99-106.

Nielsen, R. F. (2006). Total encournters: The life and times of the Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene. Penetanguishene, ON: Mental Health Centre Volunteer Association.  

To Cite this Page

Bazar, J. L. (2015). Early research. In J. L. Bazar (Ed.), Remembering Oak Ridge Digital Archive and Exhibit. Retrieved from

Early Research