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The Neurological Patient in History


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Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Tourette's, multiple sclerosis, stroke: all are neurological illnesses that create dysfunction, distress, and disability. With their symptoms ranging from impaired movement and paralysis to hallucinations and dementia, neurological patients present myriad puzzling disorders and medical challenges.

Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries countless stories about neurological patients appeared in newspapers, books, medical papers, and films. Often the patients were romanticized; indeed, it was common for physicians to cast neurological patients in a grand performance, allegedly giving audiences access to deep philosophical insights about the meaning of life and being.

Beyond these romanticized images, however, the neurological patient was difficult to diagnose. Experiments often approached unethical realms, and treatment created challenges for patients, courts, caregivers, and even for patient advocacy organizations.

In this kaleidoscopic study, the contributors illustrate how the neurological patient was constructed in history and came to occupy its role in Western culture.

Stephen T. Casper is Assistant Professor in Humanities and Social Sciences at Clarkson University. L. Stephen Jacyna is reader in the History of Medicine and Director of the Centre for the History of Medicine at University College London.


This book is very readable, and its chapters achieve a good deal of coherence. The two final parts closely analyze the place of the patient in the evolution of the discipline [of neurology]. Taken together with the Introduction, they form a brilliant frame for the other articles in this collective work. GESNERUS

An important contribution to the field that promises to elicit further research by these and other scholars committed to exploring what makes the neurological patient so intriguing-not just for medical history, but for the field of history in general. H-NET

An important and imaginatively organized contribution to the largely unstudied -- but crucial -- history of the interaction between specialization, disease concepts, patient needs, and clinical practice. This book is relevant to any serious student of medical history or the sociology of medicine. --Charles E. Rosenberg, Professor of the History of Science, and the Ernest E. Monrad Professor in the Social Sciences, Harvard University

The Neurological Patient in History is a valuable and welcome addition to the historiography. It not only places the neurological patient firmly in the spotlight, it also encourages readers to re-examine the patient using fresh and thought-provoking lines of enquiry . . . this volume will be used as a reference text for years to come. REVIEWS IN HISTORY

A satisfyingly eclectic account of how patients have been diagnosed and treated and how they have experienced health and illness during the last one hundred and fifty years. There are many fine contributions to this volume. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW


First Published: 15 Feb 2012
13 Digit ISBN: 9781580464123
Pages: 274
Size: 9 x 6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: University of Rochester Press

Details updated on 19 Oct 2015


  • 1  Introduction
  • 2  The Patient's Pitch: The Neurologist, the Tuning Fork, and Textbook Knowledge
  • 3  Neurological Patients as Experimental Subjects: Epilepsy Studies in the United States
  • 4  Speaking for Yourself: The Medico-Legal Aspects of Aphasia in Nineteenth-Century Britain
  • 5  The Spouse, the Neurological Patient, and Doctors
  • 6  Disappearing in Plain Sight: Public Roles of People with Dementia in the Meaning and Politics of Alzheimer's Disease
  • 7  The Cursing Patient: Neuropsychiatry Confronts Tourette's Syndrome, 1825-2008
  • 8  The Psychasthenic Poet: Robert Nichols and His Neurologists
  • 9  The Encephalitis Lethargica Patient as a Window on the Soul
  • 10  Neuropatients in Historyland
  • 11  The Neurological Patient in History: A Commentary
  • 12  Bibliography
  • 13  List of Contributors
  • 14  Index

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