How to get thrown out of The Founders of Neurology

Stephen CASPER
University College London, UK; and Program in the History of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA
s.casper AT

The volume The Founders of Neurology first appeared in 1953. Seventeen years later, its publishers, Charles C Thomas, released a revised and enlarged edition to positive acclaim. Noting that this 1970 edition had thirty-four new biographies, including some of contemporaries left out of the original, one reviewer writing for Medical History observed, “Ancestor worship can thus be said to be a part of neurology, and for this reason…this collection of biographical essays is a valuable addition to the neurologist’s library.” Although his comments reflected the new hardback’s content, the reviewer missed a crucial distinction between the two volumes: some faces that had appeared in the first edition were now missing from the second.

Numerous scholars have noted the polemical nature of biographical and commemorative collections, and some allege that the raison d’etre for such works is the construction of a professional mythology or a social ideology. Using textual analysis, correspondence, publishing house records, and other supporting archival documentation, this paper will examine the 1970 edition’s origins and consider its multiple layers. In so doing, it will tease out the edition’s invented traditions, while also identifying its social, political, and cultural nuances. What emerges is a story about how the making of the second edition was more than just the invention of a mythology; it was also a reaffirming of a global consensus about neurology’s professional identity – past, present, and future.

Session VIII.  Sources (Books and Brains)
Friday, 22 June 2007, 9:00 - 9:30 am

12th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences   (ISHN)
Los Angeles, California, USA, 19-23 June 2007