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J Nephrol. 2011 May-Jun;24 Suppl 17:S4-11. doi: 10.5301/JN.2011.6453.

Jean-Martin Charcot: neurologist by avocation, nephrologist by yearning.

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  • 1Renal Section, Department of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


In an age of medical advances and specialization, Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893) helped found the discipline of neurology and in 1882 was appointed the first Professor of Diseases of the Nervous System in France. As an investigator with broad interests and vast knowledge, Charcot contributed to several other disciplines. An early mentor and dominant figure in Charcot's formative years was Pierre Rayer (1793-1867), famous for his seminal contributions to the study of the kidney, who gifted to Charcot his passion for clinical pathological correlations and likely a yearning for the study of kidney diseases. Famous for the clarity and incisiveness of his formal teaching presentations, Charcot lectured on the kidney at the Faculty of Medicine in Paris in 1877. Translated into English and published as a book titled Lectures on Bright's Disease, those lectures became widely accessible and quoted in the literature through the 1940s. In addition, at a time when he was already concentrating on the study of neurological disorders, Charcot maintained his life-long interest in the kidney and published original studies on the pathological changes of the kidney in gout and experimental lead poisoning, as well as supporting a study of hysterical ischuria by his students.

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