Neurology becoming independent in the 20th century: Illustration by three large multi-authored textbooks

1Department of Neurology, Atrium Medical Centre, Heerlen, The Netherlands.  pkoehler AT
2Department of Neurology, University Medical Centre, Utrecht, The Netherlands.  fajenn AT
3Department of Neuropathology, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  d.troost AT

Specialisation in medicine started during the second half of the 19th century and may be illustrated by several phenomena, including the establishment of specialised journals, societies, university chairs, the invention and application of instruments, and the publication of handbooks. The emancipation of neurology, independent from internal medicine and psychiatry, went slowly and was paralleled by increasingly larger textbooks.

The object of this paper is to describe three large multi-authored neurological handbooks published during the 20th century, notably Lewandowky’s Handbuch der Neurologie (LHN, 1911-4), Bumke & Foerster’s Handbuch der Neurologie (BFHN, 1935-7), and Vinken & Bruyn’s Handbook of Clinical Neurology (HCN, 1968-2002).

Lewandowsky published his series in six volumes within 3½ years, containing 47 chapters in 5595 pages. Approximately 60 authors, 20 of whom from abroad, contributed. As Lewandowsky died young (1918), supplement volumes were published in the 1920s by Bumke and Foerster, who had contributed to previous volumes. In fact they continued LHN in the 1930s (same title, lay-out, and publisher). They invited 102 authors, many of whom from abroad, filling 12.938 pages in 17 volumes (18 books). Vinken & Bruyn were assisted by a third editor and 28 volume editors. They published 78 volumes (44 in the original and 34 in the revised series), written by 2799 authors (40% European, 48% American), in 1909 chapters (46.025 pages).

The increase of knowledge is illustrated by the growing number of pages necessary to describe neurology. In LHN and BFHN basic neuroscience, including anatomy, physiology, and pathology plays a more important role than in HCN. Over the years these publication projects became more complicated and global as is demonstrated by the increasing number of foreign authors. Whereas the first two handbooks were published mainly in German (a few English chapters in BFHN), HCN was published entirely in English. The three handbooks played an important role in clinical practice at the time and testify how neurology became an independent specialty. They may now be considered important historical sources.

Session IIa
Thursday, 22 June 2006, 2.30 - 3.00 pm

11th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Pavia, Italy, 2006