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Parkinson of the disease

Heberden's commentaries

Heberden’s descriptions of tremor and disorders of shakingHeberden’s descriptions of tremor and disorders of shakingBy the time Parkinson came to write the Essay clinicians were well aware of differing sorts of tremor (including tremor at rest) and of various disorders of gait.

The eminent physician and Fellow of the Royal Society William Heberden (1710-1801) published his Commentaries on the history and cure of diseases in Latin in 1801.

Between its first publication in English in 1802 and 1817 it had appeared in four editions. The work became a popular textbook because of the importance of the personal witness of patients. Heberden stated:

The notes from which the following observations were collected, were taken in the chambers of the sick from themselves, or from their attendants…These notes were read over every month, and such facts, as tended to throw any light upon the history of a distemper, or the effects of a remedy, were entered under the title of a distemper in another book, from which were extracted all the particulars here given.

Heberden’s method of chronicling daily clinical observations, ruminating on them, and then abstracting details into the Commentaries placed clinical appearances centre stage.

However, his descriptions of tremor and disorders of shaking (as shown in the opening reproduced here) are much less developed than those in Parkinson’s Essay.

Although he pointed to the association of trembling with old age, hypochondria, and heavy intake of alcohol and coffee, Heberden does not propose any new associations of trembling with posture or with gait. 

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