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1710: The Introduction of Experimental Nervous System Physiology and Anatomy by François Pourfour du Petit

  • Lawrence Kruger
  • Larry W. Swanson
Chapter

The beginnings of an experimental approach to brain function derived from the study of brain lesions can be traced to antiquity, but the emergence of a reasoned systematic methodology was surprisingly slow to mature in the early period of empiricism. The Oxford “virtuosi” associated with Willis (Lower, Wren, & others) in the late seventeenth century responded to the thrust of William Harvey’s brilliant experiments, devised to explain the nature of the action of the heart and circulation of blood, by injecting various substances into the vasculature of dogs and observing their effects. Yet there was surprisingly little effort to add new empirical gains concerning brain function before the remarkable contributions of François Pourfour du Petit (1664–1741) in the early eighteenth century. His earliest and most important work, Lettres d’un Medecin des Hôpitaux du Roy, a un Autre Medecin de Ses Amis, was published in 1710 and contains an account of brain lesions as well as some experiments describing vascular infusion of acids and alkalis derived from the reports of Willis (1664). The treatise by Petit (as he was generally known) survives in but few copies and details of its contents remain astonishingly obscure to collectors, libraries, and historical accounts.

Keywords

Eighteenth Century Visual Field Defect Nictitate Membrane Corpus Striatum Sympathetic Trunk 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lawrence Kruger
    • 1
  • Larry W. Swanson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Neurobiology, David Geffen School of MedicineUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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