A few thoughts on the history of epilepsy

  • J.C. de Villiers


The history of epilepsy is a saga of the struggle by which scientific understanding of an unusual disease was gained by a long and circuitous route. In the beginning this aflliction was attributed to demon possession and defied understanding for centuries when it was still regarded as a sacred disease and surrounded by superstition and mysticism; therapy of necessity had to follow similar lines of reasoning. The gradual realisation that cerebral dysfunction was the cause of this disease was highly significant although still followed by misunderstanding and misinterpretation - those two essential steps to progress. Clear, inspired reasoning and lucid clinical descriptions ofepilepsy by John Hughlings Jackson and William Gowers set the scene for what was to follow. Experimental neurophysiology, cortical simulation, cortical localisation, new technologies of electro-encephalography, modes of visualisation of structures histologically and radiologically led to our present-day concepts of this complex disorder. We have been brought to new thresholds of understanding through the co-operative exertions of many workers from all parts of the world and this saga tells of some of the highest scientific accomplishments in medicine.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135