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December 1978

The Rise and Fall of Eponyms

Arch Ophthalmol. 1978;96(12):2202-2203. doi:10.1001/archopht.1978.03910060504003

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Most eponyms, like most people, serve a useful purpose, for a time. During their life tenure they establish a coterie of friends, develop a sort of cultural identification, and, of course, are ever subject to critical evaluation. But their life span is finite.

Eponyms have the virtue of designating an entity or group of entities without prematurely implying the etiology or pathogenesis. Charisma also plays a role. But they have a disadvantage, aside from the fact that they may memorialize the wrong person, in adding heavily to an already overburdened science (especially neuro-ophthalmology). Perhaps the Archives' Centennial is an appropriate occasion to consider some eponyms that could pass into history.

Tay-Sachs is a term that has served to identify a syndrome of dementia and blindness in infants. But Tay-Sachs is no longer a single entity. Of the several emergent variants, one has already been graced with an eponymic label, Sandhoff's

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