07 December 2012

Darwinism; Philosophy; Neurology

In 1928 a review of Samuel Alexander Kinnier Wilson's Modern Problems in Neurology dressed the pages of the British Medical Journal. In an otherwise rather dismissive statement, the reviewer proffered towards the close the following observation:

We have outlined above some of the principle problems which confront the neurologist at present. It is natural to conclude with an inquiry as to the direction in which we may look for their solution. Comparative physiology received an immense impetus from Darwinian emphasis upon man's animal characteristics. The neurologist nowadays, however, is constantly being reminded of human uniqueness. Man's erect attitude sets a wide gulf between himself and his nearest simian relatives, and it is becoming increasingly evident that there are many human neural activities upon which experiment, even though apes and monkeys be the subjects, can throw little or no light. Disease and war are the great experimenters in human physiology, but the size and often multiplicity of the lesions produced by these blind and careless workers renders the task of drawing physiological deductions from pathological states extremely complex. But the refractoriness of his material adds zest to the work of the artist, and it is to an element of art in neurological, and indeed in all medical, research that we would draw conclusion. Neurology has always proved attractive to minds of philosophical outlook, for the neurologist has continually to deal in a practical way with those problems of the relations of body and mind which exercise the philosopher in the rarefied atmosphere of his study. (BMJ, Nov. 3, 1928, p. 803)
Who exemplified this fact the most? Of course it was John Hughlings Jackson!

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