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Eur Neurol. 2005;54(1):49-53. Epub 2005 Aug 10.

Historical descriptions of multiple sclerosis.

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Emeritus Consultant Neurologist, Department of Neurology, Hull Royal Infirmary, Hull, UK.


Modern understanding of multiple sclerosis is firmly founded on the labours of many neuroscientists of the last two centuries. The cost of the disease to its victims is nowhere better displayed than in their personal accounts of their illnesses. Two figures stand out: the high-born aristocrat, Augustus D'Este and his diaries of the early 19th century and the courageous if histrionic Bruce Frederick Cummings in the early 20th century. This paper cannot do justice to their major contributions, but seeks to summarise them to give the flavour of their symptoms, disabilities and the way they were regarded by doctors and the people at large. The early medical studies of Carswell, Cruveilhier, Charcot and many others are briefly reviewed as relevant settings to these personal histories.

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