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History of Neurology: Seminal Citations
September 2001

Diagram Makers or Classical Neurologists?The Interactions of Aphasiology and Its History

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2001 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2001

Arch Neurol. 2001;58(9):1494-1497. doi:10.1001/archneur.58.9.1494

This essay sets out to examine some aspects of the interaction between a scientific discipline and its history. The study of the history of medicine has more than heuristic and didactic purposes; it can help physicians settle contemporaneous controversies. In scientific debates, history writing plays an important role in the process of discipline formation. This essay explores the ways in which the study of historical figures helped shape the clinical theories of Henry Head and Norman Geschwind and examines their reassessments of the contributions of earlier participants in the field of aphasiology. Although Head and Geschwind worked in different eras, they were both very interested in the history of neurology. By relying on neglected writings of earlier neurologists to explain their clinical findings and to support their own theories of aphasia, they used history to enrich their own clinical work. They turned to history writing to convince their peers about the validity of their claims. Head delegitimized the localizationist approach to aphasia by showing that the localizationists had used faulty methodology; at the same time he legitimized his approach by establishing a connection with John Hughlings-Jackson. Geschwind used historical writings to deny the existence of a conflict between the holists and the views of Carl Wernicke and the other classical neurologists whose ideas he was resurrecting. History writing plays an important role in the definition of all sciences—aphasiology is no exception.

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