Tag Archives: Broca

Speechless! The Mystery Revealed

An article in the January issue of the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences may be of interest to some AHP readers. In “Mysterious ‘Monsieur Leborgne’: The Mystery of the Famous Patient in the History of Neuropsychology is Explained,” Domanski discusses the biographical lineage of arguably the most important patient in neuroscience history: the Frenchman “Monsieur Leborgne.” The patient’s identity had remained a mystery until this article. Full article details below:

“Mysterious ‘Monsieur Leborgne’: The Mystery of the Famous Patient in the History of Neuropsychology is Explained,” by C.W. Domanski. The abstract reads:

As of spring 2011, 150 years have passed since the death of one of the most famous neurological patients of the nineteenth century. A Frenchman, “Monsieur Leborgne” also known by the nickname “Tan,” was hospitalized due to an almost complete loss of speech. His case was presented in 1861, during a seating of the Société d’Anthropologie de Paris by a physician, Pierre Paul Broca (1824-1880), who used this occasion to report that he had discovered, in the middle part of patient’s left frontal lobe, the cortical speech center. This area was later named “Broca’s area.” Both the patient and his medical records were the subject of numerous descriptions and citations in the medical literature. The patient’s full identity and social background has remained a mystery until now. This article presents biographical data concerning Leborgne and his family based on archive registers in France.

Classic Science from “The Giants’ Shoulders”

a giantThe second issue of the “The Giants’ Shoulders” — a blog carnival focusing on reviews of “great” scientific publications of the past — has been posted at the blog “The Lay Scientist.”

Of particular interest to historians of psychology will be the account by SciCurious of Paul Broca’s “discovery” of Broca’s Area of the brain. Although the account is valuable enough, it unfortunately appears to trade in the myths about Broca that were described in Roger Thomas’ article about commonly repeated untruths in the history of psychology (which appeared in the fall 2007 issue of American Journal of Psychology ). Continue reading Classic Science from “The Giants’ Shoulders”

Common Errors in History of Psychology Textbooks

Roger K. ThomasIn the fall 2007 issue of the American Journal of Psychology, an article by Roger Thomas (U. Georgia) presented the cases of five erroneous stories that frequently appear in history of psychology textbooks. The episodes included (1) what Santayana really said about people who don’t know the past, (2) the events surrounding Pavlov’s mugging in New York in 1923, (3) Broca’s 1861 “discovery” of a speech center in the brain, (4) the misrepresentation of Morgan’s canon, and (5) the reasons Descartes gave for locating the soul in the pineal gland.

The first of these, although a relatively minor error, is particularly ironic in the context. Continue reading Common Errors in History of Psychology Textbooks

Trepanation in the Flesh

Trepanned skullThe blog Neurophilosophy has an article on the history of trepanation, the surgical procedure in which a hole is cut in the skull of a person for any of a variety of medical and spiritual reasons. The operation has been used in a variety of cultures throughout history. The article covers a wide range — from ancient Greece to the modern International Trepanation Advocacy Group. A great deal of emphasis placed on the story of Ephraim George Squier, who discovered a trepanned native Peruvian skull in the 1860s and brought it to the attention first of the New York Academy of Medicine, and later of the prominent French physician Paul Broca. Broca, who founded the Anthropological Society in 1859, went on to develop an elaborate theory of the people who did the surgery. The article includes a number of fascinating historical illustrations. More fascinating still is a video clip from the 1998 film A Hole in the Head, in which a Kisi (Tanzanian) medicine man trepans a woman from the tribe in front of the camera.

And you thought hearts were the important organ on Valentine’s Day!

Tip o’ the hat to Mindhacks for alerting me to this material.