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J Hist Neurosci. 2009 Jul;18(3):293-303. doi: 10.1080/09647040802431946.

A colorful albino: the first documented case of synaesthesia, by Georg Tobias Ludwig Sachs in 1812.


In 1812, Georg Sachs published a medical dissertation concerning his own albinism and that of his sister. However, he also goes on to describe another phenomenon--namely synaesthesia involving colors for music and simple sequences (including numbers, days, and letters). Most contemporary researchers of synaesthesia fail to cite the case when offering a history of the subject and fewer still will have read it (the original was published in Latin). In this article, we argue that Sachs's case is the first convincing account of synaesthesia; we provide the first English translation of his description of it; we discuss the influence of the case in early theories about synaesthesia and its resonance with contemporary research findings.

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