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Brown-Sequard: An Improbable Genius Who Transformed Medicine
     

Brown-Sequard: An Improbable Genius Who Transformed Medicine

by Michael J. Aminoff, MD
 

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Brown-Séquard: An Improbable Genius Who Transformed Medicine traces the strange career of an eccentric, restless, widely admired, nineteenth-century physician-scientist who eventually came to be scorned by antivivisectionists for his work on animals, by churchgoers who believed that he encouraged licentious behavior, and by other scientists for his

Overview

Brown-Séquard: An Improbable Genius Who Transformed Medicine traces the strange career of an eccentric, restless, widely admired, nineteenth-century physician-scientist who eventually came to be scorned by antivivisectionists for his work on animals, by churchgoers who believed that he encouraged licentious behavior, and by other scientists for his unorthodox views and for claims that, in fact, he never made. An improbable genius whose colorful life was characterized by dramatic reversals of fortune, he was a founder-physician of England's premier neurological hospital and held important professorships in America and France. Brown-Séquard identified the sensory pathways in the spinal cord and emphasized functional processes in the integrative actions of the nervous system, thereby anticipating modern concepts of how the brain operates. He also discovered the function of the nerves that supply the blood vessels and thereby control their caliber, and the associated reflexes that adjust the circulation to bodily needs. He was the first to show that the adrenal glands are essential to life and suggested that other organs have internal secretions. He injected himself with ground-up animal testicles, claiming an invigorating effect, and this approach led to the development of modern hormone replacement therapy. Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard was reportedly "one of the greatest discover of facts that the world has ever seen". It has also been suggested that "if his reasoning power had equaled his power of observation he might have done for physiology what Newton did for physics." In fact, scientific advances in the years since his death have provided increasing support for many of his once-ridiculed beliefs.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Every medical student learns about the Brown-Sequard Syndrome, because it is a direct introduction to the understanding of the spinal cord tracts. However, most physicians, including those in the clinical neurosciences, know little about the life and other major contributions of this extraordinary, eccentric, wandering polymath, who was born on the unlikely French island of Mauitiusr Michael Aminoff, a polymath himself, brings Charles Edouard Brown-Sequard to life with this wonderful biography. It is a great and enriching read." —Robert B. Daroff, MD, Professor and Chair Emeritus of Neurology, Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH

"It is fitting that Michael Aminoff should write an in-depth biography of Charles Edouard Brown-Séquard. Although separated by one and a half centuries, both are accomplished of men of science and medicine with careers in America and Europe. Aminoff is undoubtedly the world's foremost expert on Brown-Séquard. His biography brings this enigmatic character to life, along with his place and time...The work is scholarly, objective and balanced in pointing out the contributions, strengths, weaknesses and eccentricities of Brown-Séquard...Aminoff does a great service to Brown-Séquard and to the history of medicine and science in relating the largely forgotten story and previously untold accounts of a remarkable scientist who left us a legacy of discoveries and challenges." — G.Bryan Young, MD, FRCPC, Department of Clinical Neurological Sciences, London Health Sciences Centre, London, Ontario, Canada

"There are so many turns and surprises within Professor Aminoff's very comprehensive biography that any medical practitioner, particularly neurologic physicians and endocrinologists, and medical/scientific historians, will be hard pressed to put down this eminently readable treatise." — H. Royden Jones, MD, Jaime Ortiz-Patino Chair in Neurology, Lahey Clinic, Burlington, MA and Clinical Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, MA

"Charles Edouard Brown-Séquard (1818-1894) was a polymath. He was immortalized by an eponym for a syndrome of spinal cord injury, which he described. That syndrome has been known to generations of medical students as a mnemonic for learning neuroanatomy. But he archived much more, including the essentiality of the adrenal glands, control of blood vessels by nerves, keeping organs alive by oxygenation (leading to cardiopulmonary bypass), the value of hypothermia, the concept of hormonal action on remote organs and replacement therapy, the idea of neuronal networks, the nature of rigor mortis and decubitus ulcers. As a result, Brown-Séquard became a famous neurologist and Professor in France, England and the United States. His story is told with literary panache by Michael Aminoff, another polymath." — Lewis P. Rowland, MD, New York Neurological Institute, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY

"Among the founding fathers of modern neuroscience, Brown-Sequard is certainly the most exotic. A nomadic career led him from his birthplace in Mauritius to the great capitals of 19th century neuroscience, Paris and London, and then to Boston and beyond. At each stop, he left a giant imprint but few rootsEL.In this new biography of the great iconoclast, Michael Aminoff makes the compelling case for Brown-Sequard's place as a theorist of the first-rank whose work foresaw the modern disciplines of endocrinology and systems neuroscience. Aminoff goes beyond the public - and private - life of this enigmatic man to illuminate the world of academia and medicine at its modern dawn. It is a brilliant and engaging tale of an impactful and quixotic life, opening a window into the foundations of modern science and medicine." — Stephen L. Hauser, MD, Chair, Department of Neurology, University of California - San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

"The present biography adds important material to previous books and places it in a larger context. Moreover, Aminoff made his book more accessible to a broader public, explaining terms in the text and providing brief biographical details on persons in footnotes." — P.J. Koehler, Brain: A Journal of Neurology

"Aminoff's biography of Brown-Séquard is an intriguing and entertaining read in its telling of the remarkable history of an extraordinary and troubled man, who fulfilled his widowed mother's dreams, only to lose part of a justly won fame and influence. It documents that, in his up-and-down career, Brown-Séquard played an important part in the beginning of modern evidencebased medicine and fostered an appreciation of the value of integrative physiology in medical diagnosis and treatment." — Edward R. Perl, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780190453893
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
11/23/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

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Meet the Author

Dr. Aminoff was born and educated in England. He moved to California in 1974, where he is Professor of Neurology at the University of California School of Medicine in San Francisco. He is well known as a neurologist, clinical neurophysiologist, educator, author, journal editor, and medical historian.

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