WADDELL, JOHN, physician, superintendent of the New Brunswick Lunatic Asylum; b. 10 March 1810 at Truro, N.S., son of the Reverend John Waddell, Presbyterian minister, and Nancy Blanchard; d. 29 Aug. 1878 at Truro.
John Waddell was educated at the grammar school in Truro and at the Pictou Academy. In 1833 he began to study medicine under Dr David B. Lynds of Truro. He continued his studies in Glasgow and London and on 18 Oct. 1839 received a diploma from the Royal College of Surgeons. In 1840, having spent some time in Paris where he attended lectures given by the leading French scientists, he began a medical practice in Truro. In the same year he married the daughter of his former teacher, Susan Lynds, who died in 1841. He was married again in 1846 to Jane Walker Blanchard of Truro; they had two daughters and a son who died as a child.
In 1849 Dr Waddell was appointed superintendent of the New Brunswick Lunatic Asylum. His appointment was opposed by many who felt that he had no special qualifications for the job and that a native of New Brunswick should have been given the position. Waddell carried out his duties capably and held the position until he retired for reasons of health in 1876. He continually urged that the government spend more on improving the hospital. He visited asylums in Canada and the United States and attempted to introduce the latest methods of treatment. The common practice in many mental hospitals was to confine violent patients in small cells. They were bound with ropes or chains and beaten frequently by keepers who were untrained and had no sympathy for the mentally ill. Facilities in many hospitals were inadequate and the patients were crowded into wards where there was no segregation of the sexes. They were placed in solitary confinement at the least sign of violent behaviour. Waddell tried as much as possible to do away with mechanical restraints and to improve the conditions under which the insane were forced to live by urging the New Brunswick government to provide more spacious accommodation. He was aware of the value of occupational therapy and attempted to provide opportunities for some of the patients to work with their hands, particularly in the gardens of the asylum. He urged that all patients be treated equally regardless of their social status and wanted to build an institution “to which those most loved” could “with confidence” be committed if required.
Waddell was greatly respected throughout the province and his resignation was accepted with regret in 1876. “Probably no man in the province of New Brunswick was better or more generally known than Dr. Waddell, and there are few whose name and works will be held in more grateful remembrance.”
N.B. Museum, James Brown, Journal, 1844–70, sect.C, 26. PANS, Community Records, Truro Township book, 107. Daily Sun (Saint John, N.B.), 30 Aug. 1878. Daily Telegraph (Saint John, N.B.), 30 Aug. 1878. Morning Freeman (Saint John, N.B.), 31 Aug. 1878. Morning News (Saint John, N.B.), 7–31 Dec. 1849, 4 Jan. 1850. New Brunswick Reporter (Fredericton), 14 Dec. 1849. New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Journals, 1850–76; 1881, 172–73. Cyclopædia of Can. biog. (Rose, 1888), 29–30. Dom. ann. reg., 1878, 370. Thomas Miller, Historical and genealogical record of the first settlers of Colchester County (Halifax, 1873), 160–62. C. T. Phillips, “Care of the insane,” Saint John Daily Sun, 27 Feb. 1904.