A Reference Companion to the History of Abnormal Psychology - Vol. 1

By John G. Howells; M. Livia Osborn | Go to book overview
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BABINSKI, JOSEPH FRANÇOIS FELIX (1857-1932). A clinical neurologist, born in Paris; his parents were Polish exiles. After qualifying in medicine, he became assistant to Jean Martin Charcot (q.v.) at the Salpêtrière (q.v.) but failed to achieve the professorial chair there, obtaining instead the post of chief of the neurological clinic at the Pitié. A big, tall man, strikingly handsome, he had a quiet manner but could produce dramatic clinical demonstrations. He was a perfectionist who attacked neurological problems with refined clinical techniques and published his findings in succinct, systematic, and factual papers. He described the plantar response--Babinski's sign--in a contribution of twenty-eight lines. His methods of neurological examination, which were based on physical findings, are still routine practice. He distinguished hysterical (seeHYSTERIA) from organic symptomatology, noted the disappearance of hysterical symptoms in patients at the Salpêtrière after Charcot's death, and acknowledged the difficulty in distinguishing between true hysteria and malingering. With Alfred Frohlich (q.v.), he investigated endocrine disorders; adiposogenital dystrophy is now known as Babinski- Fröhlich syndrome. He helped to found the Societé de Neurologie de Paris. His personal interests included opera, ballet, and gastronomy, this latter giving rise to the story that he abruptly broke off a ward round to rush home, where he had been summoned by a message that the soufflé was nearly ready. He lived with his brother, a distinguished engineer and famous cook.

Bibliography: Haymaker W., and Schiller F. 1970. The founders of neurology. 2d ed.

BABYLONIAN MEDICINE. Cuneiform records of ancient Babylonia (first mentioned in c. 2700 B.C.) have been preserved in clay tablets and contain some information about medicine. The Babylonians believed that living persons were composed of soul and body. The intellect was located in the

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