Here Majella O’Sullivan takes a look at some of the most common conditions named after those who discovered them and the people whose names they bear.
This year marks the bicentenary of when a British doctor first described an illness we now recognise as Parkinson’s.
James Parkinson published his research back in 1817 in his ‘An Essay of the Shaking Palsy’ and his work was awarded by the honour of an eponym and the illness he described was given his name.
The names of celebrated doctors may be familiar to us through their links with well-known diseases, syndromes or conditions, though we may be less familiar with the symptoms themselves.
Being awarded an eponym is considered the standard in Western medicine and an honour bestowed on the doctors, scientists and researchers, who may have devoted a lifetime to the discovery, identification and treatment of ailments and conditions that affect the population.
Typically, the doctors honoured by the eponym were the first to publish an article about it in a recognised medical journal.
Sometimes, though not as common, medical conditions are named after a patient who suffered from it, like Lou Gehrig’s disease is the US name for what we know as motor neurone disease. It was called after the American baseball player and member of the New York Yankees who died of the disease at the age of 37.
Alzheimer’s, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Down syndrome, and Chrohn’s disease are examples of eponyms that are well known — but just how much do we know about the people behind them who have been immortalised in their names?
There are hundreds of eponyms for various conditions, diseases, illnesses and syndromes and women are severely under-represented.
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