EVENT: Visualising a New Disease

Visualising a new disease: James Parkinson and his Essay
Weston Room, Maughan Library, Chancery Lane
November 29th 6-8pm

When James Parkinson (1755-1824) published his Essay on the Shaking Palsy in 1817, he was well known for his Chemical Pocket-book (1800), political pamphlets, health advice manuals, geological communications and children’s stories. Drawing on clinical and urban case descriptions, the Essay developed an affecting account of a ‘peculiar tremulous motion’.

By characterizing and fusing together particular disorders of shaking, posture and gait, hitherto thought separate phenomena, Parkinson re-formulated an array of human movements as a single disease.


My talk will examine the narrative order Parkinson conferred on this newly identified malady, and what his logic owed to his own sentimental writing, urban observation, fossil researches, and neurological reasoning.

To mark the two-hundredth anniversary of the Essay’s publication, the exhibition Parkinson of the Disease is on display in the same room. It charts the Essay’s intellectual antecedents and legacy. Parkinson’s activities as a clinician, collector, classifier and political activist, steeped in the print culture of his day, reveal a man whose sympathies lay with the disadvantaged and down-trodden.


– Brian Hurwitz

Image from Parkinson’s The Way to Health (1802), [Credit: Wellcome Images]

The talk will be followed by a wine reception in LG.39 of the Maughan Library. Any questions please don’t hesitate to contact centre administrator James Rakoczi.

For more information on the exhibition click here.


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