The assignment of priority in the description of any disease is a perilous matter because it is dependent on the thoroughness with which the writings of old authors are perused. Credit is commonly given to Westphal (1877) for first describing narcolepsy and to Gélineau (1880) for naming it. However, Gélineau himself cited a case reported by Caffe in 1862. Wilson1 stated that Graves reported a case in 1851, and Cave,2 that Richard Bright performed an autopsy (the only one ever recorded) on a patient with narcolepsy in 1836.
This woman, aged 67, had been a patient of Bright's for ten years. For from thirty to forty years she had had attacks of sleep characteristic of narcolepsy. In addition, for an unstated period she had had "shaking fits" in which her hands would be agitated, her head would fall, as if the muscles of the neck had lost all
LENNOX WG. THOMAS WILLIS ON NARCOLEPSY. Arch NeurPsych. 1939;41(2):348–351. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1939.02270140134010
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