Epilepsy: A Disruptive Force in History.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

Since it was first described in a Mesopotamian text in 2000 bc, countless individuals have offered their perspectives on epilepsy's cause, treatment, and even deeper spiritual significance. However, despite the attention the disease has received through the millennia, it has only been within the past half-century that truly effective treatment options have been available. As a result, for the vast majority of recorded history, individuals with epilepsy have not only had to deal with the uncertainty of their next epileptic seizure but also the concomitant stigma and ostracization. Interestingly, these individuals have included several prominent historical figures, including Julius Caesar, Vladimir Lenin, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The fact that epilepsy has appeared in the lives of influential historical people means that the disease has played some role in affecting the progress of human civilization. Epilepsy has cut short the lives of key political leaders, affected the output of talented cultural icons, and, especially within the past half century, influenced the collective understanding of neuroscience and the human nervous system. In this article, the authors review how epilepsy throughout history has manifested itself in the lives of prominent figures and how the disease has helped shape the course of humanity's political, cultural, and scientific evolution.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ali, R; Connolly, ID; Feroze, AH; Awad, AJ; Choudhri, OA; Grant, GA

Published Date

  • June 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 90 /

Start / End Page

  • 685 - 690

PubMed ID

  • 26709155

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1878-8769

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.wneu.2015.11.060


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States