James Parkinson Biography


Birthday: April 11, 1755 (Aries)

Born In: Shoreditch

James Parkinson was an English surgeon who described the disease "paralysis agitans", a condition that would later become known as Parkinson's Disease. Best known for his work, ‘An Essay on the Shaking Palsy’, in which he identified the medical condition shaking palsy as a disease of the central nervous system; he systematically described six individuals with symptoms of the disease in the essay. Born as the son of an apothecary and surgeon, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps early on in childhood. He possessed an inherent interest in medical science and was also genuinely concerned about the well-being of fellow human beings. Intelligent and hard working, he was easily accepted into the London Hospital Medical College and went on to further his education from the Royal College of Surgeons. He initially started out as an apprentice in his father's practice and eventually took over the practice after his father’s death. Even as a young medical practitioner he became interested in mental illnesses and was much influenced by the works of John Hunter, a researcher with interests in biology, pathology and medical science. In addition to being a surgeon he was also a geologist, palaeontologist, and political activist who championed many causes. World Parkinson's Day is held each year on his birthday, 11 April
Quick Facts

British Celebrities Born In April

Also Known As: Паркинсон, Джеймс

Died At Age: 69


Spouse/Ex-: Mary Dale

father: John Parkinson

Surgeons Political Activists

Died on: December 21, 1824

place of death: London

More Facts

education: Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry

Childhood & Early Life
James Parkinson was born on 11 April 1755, in Shoreditch, London, England. His father John Parkinson was an apothecary and surgeon practicing in Hoxton Square in London. He had one brother, William, and one sister, Mary.
From a young age he was interested in the medical profession and always knew that he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a physician.
He studied Latin, Greek, natural philosophy and shorthand as a medical student. He was bright and hard working and studied at the London Hospital Medical College in 1776. Later on he received his diploma from the Royal College of Surgeons.
He deeply cared about the welfare of people and was particularly interested in the various mental illnesses people suffered from and the effect of the mental disorders on their lives. He was influenced by the works of the researcher John Hunter who had interests in biology, pathology, and medical science.
In 1777, James Parkinson became an honorary medalist of the Royal Humane Society after assisting his father in using resuscitation methods on a man who had hanged himself.
He was approved by the Corporation of London as a surgeon in 1784.
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He began his career as an apprentice in his father’s practice. After the death of his father in 1794, he inherited his apothecary.
As a physician he strived to improve the general health and well-being of the population and had a genuine interest in the welfare of the people. He wrote several medical doctrines which reflected not just his medical knowledge, but also his concern for the people.
One of the several areas of his interests was mental illness. He was concerned about the way the mentally ill were treated in those days and was a champion for legal protection for the mentally ill and also for their doctors and care-takers.
Along with being a surgeon, he also had deep interests in the fields of geology and palaeontology. He published the first volume of his ‘Organic Remains of a Former World’ in 1804 which was followed by the publication of a second volume in 1808 and a third in 1811. He also illustrated the volumes himself.
He attended a gathering of distinguished gentlemen—the first meeting of the Geological Society of London—at the Freemasons' Tavern in London in 1807. Several other prominent personalities like Sir Humphry Davy, Arthur Aikin and George Bellas Greenough also attended the gathering.
In 1812 he, along with his son, described appendicitis in English. It was the first described case of the disease in English in which perforation was shown to be the cause of death.
In 1817 he published ‘An Essay on the Shaking Palsy’ in which he described in detail the symptoms of the disease shaking palsy in which prolonged trembling in different parts of the body, most notably the hands and arms is observed in the patient. Several decades later, the French physician Jean-Martin Charcot attached Parkinson's name to the medical condition.
A multi-faceted personality, he was also an outspoken social reformer and political activist. He openly criticized British Prime Minister William Pitt and published several pamphlets calling for direct citizen representation in the House of Commons and universal suffrage.
He was an active member of the London Corresponding Society for Reform of Parliamentary Representation, which was one of the several secret political societies he was involved with.
Major Work
He is best remembered for his 1817 work, ‘An Essay on the Shaking Palsy’. He had systematically described in this essay the symptoms of what was then known as ‘shaking palsy’ after observing six people suffering from the disease. Several decades later the disease was renamed as “Parkinson’s Disease”.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Mary Dale on 21 May 1783. The couple went on to have eight children of who two did not survive past childhood.
He suffered from a severe stroke in 1824 that interfered with his ability to speak. He died on 21 December 1824. He was buried at St. Leonard's Church, Shoreditch. His medical practice was inherited by his son, John, who was also a doctor.
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