Long forgotten by his own country, 18th-century English-born physician James Parkinson was honored at a global conference March 10-11 to mark two centuries of progress in understanding the disease that today bears his name.
Organized by the International Parkinson and Movement Disease Society (MDS), the event paid homage to Parkinson, who in 1817 published “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy,” according to Parkinson’s UK, which established Parkinson’s as a recognized medical condition. K. Ray Chaudhuri and Peter Jenner, two professors at King’s College London, led the proceedings.
Parkinson, who first coined the term “paralysis agitans” to describe the disease that later became recognized as Parkinson’s, was born April 11, 1755. For this reason, April 11 is now World Parkinson’s Day, and that week is Parkinson’s Awareness Week.
The son of an apothecary, Parkinson lived most of his life in London, where he practiced as well. He was also a social reformer and political activist who championed several causes, including universal suffrage – the right for all men and women to vote.
“Parkinson was eminent in his time, but 50 years after his death, his biographer said of him, ‘English born, English bred, forgotten by the English and the world at large, such was the fate of James Parkinson.’ Yet his name is now internationally renowned as he described an illness that affects millions worldwide and that increasingly occurs in our aging population,” Jenner said in a press release. “This international event is to recognize his place in global medicine.”
MDS organized the conference with the endorsement of other institutions, including the Cure Parkinson’s Trust, European Parkinson’s Disease Association, Parkinson’s UK, King’s Health Partners, the Michael J. Fox Foundation and the National Parkinson Foundation. Later this year, MDS will also publish a commemorative issue of its Movement Disorders Journal to include the 200-year anniversary of “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy.”