The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson: The Pioneering Life of a Forgotten Surgeon

Pegasus. Aug. 2017. 320p. illus. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781681774541. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781681774954. SCI
One might think that a biography of James Parkinson, the man for whom Parkinson's disease is named (owing to an essay he wrote in 1817 describing the symptoms of what he called "the shaking palsy"), would focus largely on the condition itself. In fact, the majority of Lewis's (Honorary Research Fellow, Univ. of Bristol, UK; The Dating Game: One Man's Search for the Age of the Earth) biography concerns the many significant scientific and medical contributions Parkinson made in other areas during the early 19th century. For example, Parkinson's three-volume Organic Remains of a Former World cataloged 700 fossils and was the first of its kind, formally launching the field of British paleontology. Following a linear chronology, this accessible title illuminates the life of this largely unknown doctor. Though Parkinson had a medical practice in the British village of Hoxton, he also pursued many other interests. After a brief stint advocating for parliamentary reform (these efforts almost landed him in prison when he was accused of plotting to overthrow George III), he turned to other endeavors, such as working to improve the conditions of paupers and child laborers. Parkinson was active in efforts to vaccinate against smallpox and conceived of the best way to treat victims of typhus.
VERDICT Recommended for medical historians and those who love biographies (particularly those of important yet largely forgotten figures).
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