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History of Neurology
June 2004

James Parkinson: Links to Charcot, Lichtenbergh, and Lightning

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2004 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.2004

Arch Neurol. 2004;61(6):977. doi:10.1001/archneur.61.6.977

James Parkinson is famous for describing a disease that now bears his name. He also wrote an important but less well-known article on lightning injuries.1 Parkinson described 2 patients struck by lightning as well as a couple of clinical findings that are now known to be hallmarks for lightning injuries: an unusual form of muscle paralysis, later termed keraunoparalysis; and a peculiar ferning skin pattern, today known as Lichtenbergh figures. In regard to keraunoparalysis, Parkinson wrote of his first subject, "He complained of total loss of sense and motion in the lower extremities."1(p496) The second patient "had the same cadaverous appearance which was observed in lower extremities of the other man. . . . his legs, also were affected in a same manner."1(p498) Regarding the transient skin lesions of lightning injury, he wrote,