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Abstract Details

Babinski and His Sign
History of Neurology
P10 - Poster Session 10 (8:00 AM-9:00 AM)

19th century is an important period for the history of neurology thanks to the illustrious neurologists that lived during this era as well as their everlasting contributions to the practice of neurology. The Salpêtrière Hospital in France, which was originally a gunpowder factory, was a critical site where many medical and scientific advances in neurology took place. Joseph Babinski is one of the numerous great neurologists who treated patients there. He was one of the favourite students of Jean-Martin Charcot with whom their careers and aspirations became inseparably intertwined. In 1885 Babinski became “chef de clinique” to Charcot. In 1896, he published the first description of the Babinski sign, which remains to be one of the most essential components of neurologic examination.

To describe Babinski’s neurologic practice and to shed light on the first descriptions of the Babinski sign
Literature review

Babinski was born in Paris to a Polish immigrant family. He completed his medical education at the University of Paris in 1884. He joined Charcot in his neurology practice at the Salpêtrière Hospital in 1885. As Charcot’s protégé, he became a masterful clinician who placed substantial importance on neurologic examination findings. He first described his famous sign in 1896, in a concise text of 28 lines. He called it the “toe phenomenon” (phénomène des orteils). In 1898, he published a more elaborate report where he commented on the mute toe response and the clinical significance of the Babinski sign. Although his observations did not gain immediate recognition, he continued his endeavors for the advancement of clinical neurology.

A review of the history of the Babinski sign reminds us of the incredible legacy of the great neurologists of the past. It also underscores the indispensable value of a perceptive and thorough neurologic examination for an astute clinical assessment.

Sanem P. Uysal, MD
Dr. Uysal has nothing to disclose.