Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology
  Users Online: 5132 Home | About the Journal | InstructionsCurrent Issue | Back IssuesLogin      Print this page Email this page  Small font size Default font size Increase font size

Table of Contents
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 297-298

Jean-Martin Charcot Pathologist, Neurologist, Psychiatrist and Physician

Department of Neurology, RN.507, GB Pant Hospital, Delhi, India

Date of Submission21-Jan-2012
Date of Decision08-Jan-2012
Date of Acceptance22-Mar-2012
Date of Web Publication5-Dec-2012

Correspondence Address:
Sanjay Pandey
Department of Neurology, RN.507, GB Pant Hospital, Delhi
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-2327.104340

Rights and Permissions



Jean-Martin Charcot is known as father of modern neurology. Before him, neurology was only limited to select disorders like chorea. His contributions were not limited to neurology only, as he was instrumental in many new developments in the field of pathology, psychiatry, and internal medicine. Even after 100 years, Charcot`s clinical methods remain the pillar of modern neurology.

Keywords: Jean-Martin Charcot, neurology, Sβlpetriθre Hospital

How to cite this article:
Pandey S. Jean-Martin Charcot Pathologist, Neurologist, Psychiatrist and Physician. Ann Indian Acad Neurol 2012;15:297-8

How to cite this URL:
Pandey S. Jean-Martin Charcot Pathologist, Neurologist, Psychiatrist and Physician. Ann Indian Acad Neurol [serial online] 2012 [cited 2022 Dec 2];15:297-8. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Jean-Martin Charcot was born in 1825 in France in an artisan family that was financially not well off. [1] He pursued a medical career, and at the age of 28 years he graduated in Medicine from University of Paris in 1853. He was appointed as Professor in Medicine in 1862 at Sâlpetrière Hospital, Paris, and was elected as Professor of Anatomy in 1872. In 1882, he was appointed as Chair of Neurology in University of Paris. [2] In fact, he was the first ever professor of Neurology.

Salpetriere hospital and contributions of jean martin charcot

Salpetriere Hospital, Paris, was originally built by King Louis XIII and the real purpose was to store gunpowder. But in the 17 th century, it was converted into a public hospital, which was mainly used for dumping illegitimate children of prostitutes in Paris. [3] This was taken as an opportunity by Charcot to do his work and he was able to conduct autopsies in many of the unclaimed bodies. There was a great contribution of Pierre Rayer and Guillame Duchenne in the career of Charcot. Pierre Rayer was the Dean and Pathology Professor of his medical school, and he taught Charcot how important pathology is for a good clinician. Duchenne was famous for his great work on muscular dystrophy and he allowed Charcot to see his patient population. Working on this patient population, Charcot and his assistant, Pierre Marie, were able to describe peroneal muscular atrophy. [4] Simultaneously, it was also reported by Howard Tooth, and the disease is also known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease. Because of strong argument of Charcot, CMT was considered to be neuropathy and not myopathy. He classified his tremor patients into two groups: one with resting tremor and another with intention tremor. Following his observations on autopsy, he differentiated into those having intention tremor patients had sclerotic plaque in brain known as multiple sclerosis and those having rest tremor had normal brain and were consistent with Parkinson's disease. [5] Multiple sclerosis (la sclerose en plaques) as a separate disease category was first coined by Charcot in 1868. He described in great detail about involvement of brain, spinal cord, and combination. He diagnosed multiple sclerosis on a living patient and described post mortem findings also. [6] There were many other important contributions by Charcot [Table 1].
Table 1: Important contributions of Jean-Martin Charcot[1,2,4,5,7]

Click here to view

Concept of hypnosis was given by Charcot and his student Georges Gilles de la Tourette while working on patients of epilepsy and hysteria after 1870. Later after death of Charcot, his student Joseph Babinski carried this work and revised the definition of hypnosis and used a term known as pithiatism. [8]

Charcot's students and controversies

Charcot was a great teacher and he was a mentor of many great neurologists. He was averse to animal experiments but made important contributions for cerebral localization. [9] Charcot started his free Tuesday clinics an exercise primarily to teach, which evolved as the benchmark of clinico-pathological studies in neurological practice. [10]

He was admired and respected by his students. Some of his great students were Charles Bouchard, Joseph Babinski, Gilles de la Tourette, Édouard Brissaud, Gilbert Ballet, Mathis Duval, Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud.

Like every successful man, he also had some controversies. He was described as secretive and cold by a few of his colleagues. Charles Bouchard who was helped by Charcot in becoming Professor of Pathology turned against his mentor. [7] In 1892, he opposed Charcot's student Joseph Babinski's nomination as Medicine Professor. Babinski was not selected and he never applied for this post again. This was the most tragic outcome of rivalry between Charcot and Bouchard. [11]

Personal life

He was married to Madame Durvis and had two children, Jeanne and Jean Baptiste. He had a passion for good food and smoking. He developed joint pain and cardiac disease at the age of 65. In 1893, he died at the age of 68 leaving behind a legacy, which changed modern neurology.

   Conclusion Top

Establishing neurology as a separate specialization, cerebral localization by clinical methods and mentoring a large pool of bright people are most important contributions of Jean-Martin Charcot.

To take away from neurology all the discoveries made by Charcot would be to render it unrecognizable. - Joseph Babinski [1],[2]

   References Top

1.Tan SY, Shigaki D. Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893): Pathologist who shaped modern neurology. Singapore Med J 2007;48:383-4.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Kumar DR, Aslinia F, Yale SH, Mazza JJ. Jean-Martin Charcot: The father ofneurology. Clin Med Res 2011;9:46-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Goetz CG. Shaking up the Salpetriere: Jean-Martin Charcot and mercury-induced tremor. Neurology 2010;74:1739-42.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Rowland LP. How amyotrophic lateral sclerosis got its name: Theclinical-pathologic genius of Jean-Martin Charcot. Arch Neurol 2001;58:512-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Goetz CG. Jean-Martin Charcot and his vibratory chair for Parkinson disease.Neurology 2009;73:475-8.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Talley CL. The emergence of multiple sclerosis as a nosological category In France, 1838-1868. J HistNeurosci 2003;12:250-65.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Leeper RR. Note on Charcot's joint disease. Br Med J 1889;2:1324- 6.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Bogousslavsky J, Walusinski O, Veyrunes D. Crime, hysteria and belle époque hypnotism: The path traced by Jean-Martin Charcot andGeorges Gilles de la Tourette. EurNeurol 2009;62:193-9.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Hierons R. Charcot and his visits to Britain. BMJ 1993;307:1589- 91.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Charcot the Clinician: The Tuesday Lessons. By Jean Martin Charcot.Translated with Commentary by Christopher C. Goetz. 193 pages.New York:Raven Press;1987. pages193.Annals of Internal Medicine.Availablefrom [Last accessed on 2012 Jan 7].  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Iragui VJ. The Charcot-Bouchard controversy. Arch Neurol 1986;43:290-5.  Back to cited text no. 11


  [Table 1]


Print this article  Email this article


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Article in PDF (438 KB)
    Citation Manager
    Access Statistics
    Reader Comments
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded98    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal