From Duchenne's de Boulogne "electric" localism to J. M. Charcot's clinical experimentation: Computational linguistic analysis of "electric" lemmas in both Parisian clinician's lexicon

Seminario di Storia della Scienza, Dipartimento di Filosofia, Universitą di Bari, Italy

Aims and purposes:   This work, part of a largest research plan, accomplished by the "Institute of History of Science", at Bari University, intends to verify the value of a computational and linguistic approach to scientific "corpora" in order to show and to study the originality and those linguistic "emergences" in relation to fundamental and conceptual "nuclei". This report, particularly, tries to focus in Duchenne's de Boulogne works, his use of a specific lexicon, connected to the application of electricity in medicine and its commensurability with the same lexicon, used by J. M. Charcot , Duchenne's student (as he admitted) in this specific domain.

Materials and methods:   The first 3 volumes of Charcot's Oeuvres Complètes (ed. by Delahaye and Lecroisnier in 1873, 1877, 1887) and Duchenne's work De l'électrisation localisée et de son application à la Physiologie, à la Pathologie et à la Thérapeutique (1855) were reduced in machine readable form, by scanning them and parsed by a lemmatisation software: INTEX, produced by Max Silberstein, at the "Laboratoire d'Automatique Documentaire et Linguistique" - Paris 7 University.

Results and explanatory proposals:   Personal and scientific relations between Duchenne and Charcot were shortly described by a several authors, from Charcot's official biographer, George Guillain, to J. Gasser's, and Goetz's, Bonduelle's and Gelfand's important works. This report aims to point out a particular aspect, not so studied till now, probably because of its features of Bachelard's "outdated science": neuro-muscular excitation techniques and their use from Duchenne and Charcot, not only as a technique but also regarding those general ideas about the relation between electricity and nervous fluid and those methodological questions regarding the use of those techniques. Duchenne's and Charcot's agnosticism about identification between electricity and nervous impulse comes out. Duchenne, for his part, proposes an idea of "conscience musculaire", that becomes in Charcot "muscular innervation sense" as an hypothesis to save his organic localism from difficulties where his study on hysteria drove him. We outline Duchenne's exclusive use of faradisation against Charcot's revival of others electrisation's techniques, a point of view closer by a modern electro-physiological exploration of degenerative reaction. At the end we suggest a Duchenne's portrait, equipped with his volt-faradic instruments, resulting as the "Laennec" of neuro-myology, engaged to plan an electric pathologic anatomy, in opposition to Charcot's eclectic use of these techniques, included an experimental use, directed to demonstrate through the faradisation the pathogenesis of particular syndromes.

Session IV -- Poster Session 1
Friday, 15 June 2001, 9:00 - 10:00 am

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