"Quel Pitres!" or, The history of pure agraphia

M.P. LORCH1 and I.H. BARRIÈRE2
1Birkbeck College, London, UK <m.lorch@bbk.ac.uk>; and 2University of Hertfordshire, Herts, UK

In 1861, Broca made persuasive arguments regarding the localization of language in the brain. Over the next 3 decades clinicians throughout Europe actively investigated the clinico-pathological correlations in aphasic disorders, the description of which typically implied the assumption that written language paralleled spoken language and that agraphia was not deemed to be a significant theoretical entity. Trousseau, Gairdner, and Hughlings Jackson all assumed that aphasics' writing was as defective as their speech.

In 1856, Marcé had described a number of cases where spoken and written language disorders were not parallel. Similar observations were published by Ogle (1867) which included one case of aphasia without agraphia taken as evidence "that the faculty of speech and the faculty of writing are not subserved by one and the same portion of cerebral substance"(1867: 106). However, these observations had little impact on the early formulations of neurolinguistic organization. The merit of Ogles and MarcÚ was to have argued for the independence of these two modalities. Bastian (1869), Exner (1881) and Charcot (1884) subsequently postulated separate faculties for speech, writing, listening and reading in their models of cerebral function. However it was not until Pitres published a detailed clinical case study of pure agraphia in 1884 that the modular nature of the language faculty was seriously debated. This paper examines the contribution of Pitres to the determination of the neuroanatomical organization of language functions.


Session VIII -- Poster Session 2
Saturday, 16 June 2001, 9:00 - 9:30 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