Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Shakes

The fellow above is one James Parkinson, born this day 1755 in London, England. The son of a surgeon, he was admitted by the City of London as a surgeon at the age of 29. He was only a surgeon, and not a physician, as many people mistakenly believe. Back then that was a much bigger difference than it is today. It matters not what his actual profession was, he was to go on to contribute greatly to the world of medicine. Until about 1799, Parkinson was heavily involved in the politics of the day, and managed to get his fool self dragged in front of the Privy Council about an alleged plot to kill the King of England. He managed to avoid prison, unlike some of his friends, and eventually decided that perhaps medicine was a better field than prison. Between the years of 1799 and 1807, he produced a number of papers on various medical subjects, including a work on gout, and some of the earliest writings ever on the subject of peritonitis. However, it was for his observations of the first six people who have the disease that was to bear his name, that he is on our hero podium today. It was his essay "On the Shaking Palsy" that first gave the world an idea of the horrible disease that was to be named after him 60 years later, that is Parkinson's disease. I guess it is a honour to have a disease named after you if you are in the medical field, but it would not be some "thank the Academy moment" for me. He later turned away from medicine, and pursued the study of nature, and was present at the first meeting of what was to become the Geological Society of London. However, for describing the disease that bears his name, and for making some serious contributions to the world of medicine James Parkinson (April 11th, 1755-December 21st, 1824, at the age of 69), you are my (230th) hero of the day.

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