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Dr James Parkinson

James Parkinson is most famous for publishing 'An Essay on the Shaking Palsy' in 1817, which established Parkinson's as a recognised medical condition.

He was a pioneer not only in medicine but also in his scientific and political interests.

James Parkinson was the first to describe 'paralysis agitans'. This was later named Parkinson's disease after him.

The son of an apothecary/surgeon, he was born on 11 April 1755. This is why we hold Parkinson's Awareness Week in April each year, and 11 April is now World Parkinson's Day.

James Parkinson lived most of his life and practised medicine at 1 Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, London.

A commemorative blue plaque can be seen on the house that now stands on the site.

James Parkinson's medical career

James Parkinson studied at the London Hospital Medical College, qualifying as a surgeon in 1784 when he was 29.

James became an honorary medallist of the Royal Humane Society in 1777 after assisting his father in using resuscitation methods on a man who had hanged himself.

After the death of his father in 1784, James Parkinson took over the practice at Hoxton Square. The practice was a large, lucrative one that also cared for the poor of the parish.

He had a keen interest in the wellbeing of people with mental illness, working at a local asylum for more than 30 years.

Social reform

James Parkinson was a social reformer and political activist who championed many causes.

World Parkinson's Day is now held on 11 April each year, the day of James Parkinson's birthday.

He wrote many pamphlets that were highly critical of the political system of the day and advocated reforms such as representation of the people in the House of Commons and universal suffrage.

In later life, James Parkinson took on other responsibilities with humanitarian goals, highlighting the importance of the welfare of children who worked as apprentices.

He uncovered abuses and encouraged reform of the law governing apprentices, in order to make reviews and inspections an integral part of the system.

James Parkinson in the spotlight

Parkinson's UK-funded researcher Dr Patrick Lewis has an article in the Journal of Parkinson's Disease (published September 2012), illuminating the life and career of James Parkinson.

Patrick comments:

"I think James Parkinson would marvel at the progress that has been made in diagnosing, understanding, and treating the condition that now bears his name.

"But I'm sure he'd be surprised and disappointed to discover that, almost two centuries after his essay, we are yet to find a cure for this devastating condition."

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