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Richard Morton: Origins of Anorexia nervosa

Pearce J.M.S.
Emeritus Consultant Neurologist, Department of Neurology, Hull Royal Infirmary, Hull, East Yorks, UK Eur Neurol 2004;52:191–192 (DOI:10.1159/000082033)

Abstract

Sir William Gull coined the name ‘anorexia nervosa’. Examples of self-starvation appeared in the Hellenistic era. Holy anorexics abused their bodies, rejected marriage and sought religious asylum where many perished and became saints. The condition then paled into obscurity until the 19th century. Louis-Victor Marce (1828–1864) described such a patient in 1859, but Richard Morton is generally credited with the first medical description of anorexia nervosa in 1689. Two neurologists in 1873 separately described anorexia nervosa. Ernest Charles Lasègue, a student friend of Claude Bernard, and a favourite pupil of Trousseau wrote of a refusal of food that may be indefinitely prolonged. Historical precedence is explored and citations included.

 

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