Medical cinematography: Birth and early neurological application

Geneviève AUBERT and Christian LATERRE
Department of Neurology, Université Catholique de Louvain, Bruxelles, Belgium

This lecture will present the beginnings of medical cinematography and particularly its early use in neurology. Paris had been the hub of the rich interactions between nascent neurology, photography and chronophotography. At the Salpêtrière Charcot and his co-workers, particularly the photographer Albert Londe, had used photography extensively. The role played by the French physiologist Marey in the development of chronophotography and later cinematography had been decisive. Finally it is again in Paris that the Cinématographe of the Lumière brothers was first shown. Very soon cinematography became a popular entertainment but medical applications were being developed simultaneously. As early as 1898, Doyen, surgeon in Paris, had himself filmed while operating. The screening of these films in non-medical circles and at fairgrounds brought cinematography into disrepute in official French medical society. At the same period, the Romanian Georges Marinesco, with his assistant Popescu, began to film neurological patients with various gait disorders, in Bucharest. He published several papers illustrating the interest of this technique in clinical research. He was followed in 1905 by Arthur Van Gehuchten, Belgian neuroanatomist and neurologist. Van Gehuchten underlined the pedagogic and documentary interest of this technique. He used it extensively up to his death in 1914. Examination of the neurological patient, highlight of clinical signs of various muscular disorders, and evolution of symptoms after surgical treatment were among the many subjects which he documented in his films. They are preserved at the Cinémathèque Royale de Belgique.


Session X -- New Approaches in 19th Century Neurology
Saturday, 16 June 2001, 2:30 pm

Sixth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and
Eighth Meeting of the European Club for the History of Neurology (ECHN)

Cologne, Germany