December 1961

Centenary of Patient "Tan"His Contribution to the Problem of Aphasia

Author Affiliations


Department of Neurology, State University of Iowa College of Medicine.

Arch Intern Med. 1961;108(6):953-956. doi:10.1001/archinte.1961.03620120137019

The annals of medicine necessarily carry the names of many famous physicians and scientists who have advanced knowledge in this aspect of human endeavor. However, there are also inscribed the names of a few famous patients such as the boy, Joseph Meister, who received the first rabies vaccination from Pasteur and James Phipps, the patient of Jenner's, who was successfully vaccinated against smallpox in 1796. A less well known name is that of Leborgne, nick-named "Tan," who died 100 years ago. This man, or more correctly, the brain of this man stirred up a controversy that is still unsettled. It is the problem of whether or not the faculty of speech resides in a specific area of the brain.

To better understand the significance of "Tan" it is necessary to go back to the beginning of the 19th century. At that time Franz Joseph Gall enunciated the doctrine that each

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