Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Jules Dejerine

Jules Dejerine originated in Savoy and grew up in the then provincial atmosphere of Geneva, where his father was a carriage proprietor… Young Dejerine had a powerful physique. At the Lycée Calvin he was better known for his swimming and boxing then for his devotion to study…. Nevertheless, he did well in school…left for Paris in the spring of 1871… and threw himself into the clinical life of the city… In 1875 he became an intern, and in the same year published his first neurological paper, on the appearances of the spinal cord in a case of club foot…

During the next few years he published important studies of the diphtheritic polyneuritis and pulmonary fat embolism, and his achievements were recognized in 1879 when he was appointed chef de clinique to Professor Hardy at the Hospice de la Charité. A year later he met a charming young American medical student from a famous San Francisco family – Augusta Klumke, whom he was to marry eight years later and who in 1887 was the first woman ever to be elected an interne des hopitaux. From the time of their marriage she shared his clinical and research activities, and carried on with both after his death in 1917.

From 1887 to 1894 Dejerine worked at the Bicêtre and from that date until 1911 at the Salpêtriere, where for the six years before his death he held the Chair of Diseases of the Nervous System initiated by Charcot…For many years his studies were particularly directed to the peripheral nervous system and its diseases… in 1883 [he published] the first of a succession of classical papers described the symptomatology of peripheral neuritis… defined the syndrome of Friedreich’s disease in 1907 and shared in the first account of the rare progressive hypertrophic interstitial nephritis always to be associated with the names of Dejerine and Sottas, as well as in the clarification of olivopontocerebellar atrophy.

Dejerine’s preoccupation with the physiology and pathophysiology of sensation continued through his professional life… He is of course known for his classic description of the thalamic syndrome… had a lively interest in psychiatry… His study of sensation led him to the thalamus, and his fascination with microscopic morbid anatomy into the wider fields of cerebral localization involving the study of central connections of the pathways concerned with hearing, speech, and vision…

Abstracted from Henry Miller, “Three Great Neurologists,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, Volume 60, April 1967.



Sections  |  Neurology

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