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J Hist Neurosci. 2004 Mar;13(1):7-21.

S. Weir Mitchell's prose and poetry on the American Civil War.

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Memphis, TN, USA.


The prose and poetry of S. Weir Mitchell (1829-1914)--related to the American Civil War--encompass a very significant portion of his non-medical writings. The Civil War, more than any other single event, shaped his future career as one of the founders of American neurology. Indeed, it should not be surprising how the war was also such a driving force in his non-medical writings. His novels, once widely read, now are scarcely noted. His accounts of the social, political and economic events of the Civil War are of historical interest to students of the period. Neuroscientists as a group, like others, are apt to be unfamiliar with these writings, with the possible exception of "The Case of George Dedlow." A major purpose of this essay is to introduce readers, especially neuroscientists, to Weir Mitchell's fictional works in which neurological cases so often appear. One appreciates more the medical aspects of his novels, written as they were by a first-hand observer. His non-medical writings, poetry and prose, are to a large extent timeless and can be appreciated by today's readers.

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