Journal Mobile

PA Kempster, B Hurwitz, AJ Lees
Journal Issue: 
Volume 47: Issue 2: 2017




It is 200 years since James Parkinson published An Essay on the Shaking Palsy. While his monograph continues to be acclaimed for its precedence and clarity of description, what is often overlooked is the originality of Parkinson’s ideas. Here we show that he appreciated the weakness of the systematic 18th century nosologies, which presupposed that medical species, the building blocks of these Linnaean taxonomic schemes, were as distinct as plant and animal species; and that Parkinson made a conceptual leap about combinations of clinical phenomena in recurring patterns, now recognised to be one of the germs of neurological thinking about syndromes. The Essay’s written style underpins another aspect of significance to contemporary neurological practice – an inherent intellectual humility. In this commemorative year we locate the continuing importance of the related notions of syndrome and disease in successive frameworks of knowledge about the shaking palsy. Syndrome and disease are interpreted as dual character concepts, one clinically-based and the other restricted to pathophysiological causation. They both remain fundamental to understanding Parkinson’s syndrome-disease today.