A History of Multiple Sclerosis

A History of Multiple Sclerosis

A History of Multiple Sclerosis

A History of Multiple Sclerosis

Synopsis

While we now recognize that MS is a common neurological disease, as late as the early twentieth century it was considered a relatively rare condition in Europe and the United States. It was only in the late 1860s that MS came to be generally recognized as a distinct disease apart from other paraplegic maladies. One of the important historical questions about MS is whether it was a new disease of the nineteenth century or one that had simply gone unrecognized for a long time. Answering this question is complicated by the different frames or ways physicians understood and explained disease in previous centuries. The way we now conceive, categorize, and explain disease is a relatively recent formulation in the long view of medical history.

This work aims to answer some of the fundamental questions of the history of MS. How and why did MS emerge when and where it did, first in a book of pathological anatomy in early nineteenth-century France, then as a distinct disease category in France by 1868? How and why did the perception of MS as a rare disease in the early twentieth century change so that by the middle of that century it was considered a common affliction of the nervous system? How did local conditions shape research on MS? Why did MS emerge as a popular crusade and research priority, rather suddenly, in the late 1940s and early 1950s? How has the experience of people with MS changed from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries? Since there was no consensus about the merits of any treatment until very recently, how does one explain the sometimes aggressive treatment of disease from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century? This book focuses in part on how sociocultural factors allowed MS to emerge into medical awareness and later popular consciousness and how the different scientific and sociocultural frames of disease affected the experience of people with MS. These factors were important in particular ways because of the peculiar disease process of MS, especially its tendency to wax and wane in many patients and in clinical symptoms.

Excerpt

The Praeger series Healing Society: Disease, Medicine, and History features individual volumes that explore the social impact of particular illnesses or medically related conditions or topics for a broad audience. the object is to publish books that offer reliable overviews of particular aspects of medical and social history while incorporating the most up-to-date scholarly interpretations. the books in the series are designed to engage readers and educate them about important but often neglected aspects of the social history of medicine. Disease and disability have significantly influenced the course of human history, and the books in this series will examine various aspects of that influence.

A History of Multiple Sclerosis is an excellent example of the type of work that the series is intended to make available. It is a broad history of a disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), which affects as many as 2.5 million people worldwide. Colin L. Talley traces the story of ms from the time that it was recognized as a distinct disease in the nineteenth century right up to the present time. He focuses on how social and cultural factors allowed ms to emerge into medical awareness and later popular consciousness, and how the different scientific and sociocultural frameworks of disease affected the experience of people with ms.

Talley also shows how lay health activists formed the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and initiated a vigorous health education campaign about the disease. They also successfully pressured for increased funding for research on ms. As the author . . .

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