Bob has good reason to research James Parkinson

Bob has good reason to research James Parkinson
Now it can be told! I have been diagnosed with Atypical Parkinson's Disease.

"Atypical" – according to my trusty Webster's – means "having no type; not typical; not characteristic; abnormal."

Me? Abnormal?


Fortunately I don't have tremors, but the malady has affected my speech. I can still write – but slow, slow SLOW!

I can think of things I want to say – clever quips, bon mots and funny sayings. However, by the time I get them out, the conversation has changed, and there I am with egg on my face and words unsaid.

Frustration is the name of the game. I want to do things like I used to, except the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. (I borrowed that last phrase from somewhere.)

Who is this Parkinson guy anyhow? Well, I'll tell you.

Dr. James Parkinson was born in London on April 11, 1755, the son of a pharmacist/surgeon to whom he was apprenticed. He became a doctor himself in 1784, the year his father died. Then he took over for his dad, practicing most of his life in the same house where he was born.

He did not become famous for the disease which bears his name until he wrote an essay on shaking palsy in 1817. Some 60 years later a French doctor (Jean Martin Charcot) called the malady Parkinson's Disease – and it has been known by that name ever since.

Parkinson, besides his medical practice, was a very controversial political activist which today would get him on CNN and in newspaper headlines. He was the Ralph Nader of his day.

He was for the "little guy," promoting higher wages, care for the elderly and disabled, education for the poor, and better prison conditions – and fighting poverty at every turn.

He wrote many pamphlets critical of King George III's government and advocating a change in British law to allow all citizens to be represented in Parliament. Needless to say he was for universal suffrage.

Like Benjamin Franklin with his pseudonym of "Silence Dogood," he used the pen name of "Old Hubert" when he wrote, probably to protect himself because he was a prominent member of two outspoken English societies.

But he appears fearless, even as a defense witness in a trial of five members of the London Corresponding Society (one of his clubs) for high treason in a court case of an alleged conspiracy to kill King George. All the accused were eventually freed.

Parkinson did other things, too. His books and papers included a plethora of things: a treatise on gout, the first to write about appendicitis in English medical literature, the effects of lightning and lots of other subjects. He was also interested in paleontology and geology, being one of the founders of the British Geological Society, still in operation today.

I think I would have liked the guy, although I probably would have had trouble keeping up with him. And he did it all in 69 years, (he died in 1824).

He and his wife, Mary, had six children. His son, John William, also became a doctor and eventually took over his practice.

It's too bad that I had to get Atypical Parkinson's Disease in order to have something to write about.

� 2006 Robert F. Karolevitz

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