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April 1960

The Swedenborg Manuscripts: A Forgotten Introduction to Cerebral Physiology

Author Affiliations

Division of Neurological Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

AMA Arch Neurol. 1960;2(4):407-409. doi:10.1001/archneur.1960.03840100045007

In the middle of the 18th century, while medical students were taught that motion and sensation derive from the ventricular system, a versatile Swedish philosopher composed a series of manuscripts in which he anticipated by decades and centuries several of the basic concepts of contemporary cerebral physiology. These writings were forgotten immediately follwing their appearance; with very few exceptions,1 later investigators seem to have been unaware of their existence. Although several Swedish writers and at least one medical historian2 have subsequently discussed Swedenborg's manuscripts, current monographs on the history of neurology3-5 contain no reference to his concepts and the names of Gall, Jackson, and others are attached to some of his ideas. Such remarkable neglect becomes comprehensible only in the light of the curious circumstances surrounding his life and work.

Emanuel Swedenborg was born in Sweden in 1688 and received his basic education in mathematics and mining

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