James Parkinson. 11 April 1755 – 21 December 1824. English physician, chemist and geologist.


Life and Work:

1. James Parkinson’s merits to science are undeniable. In the year of the Battle of Borodino, he announced to the entire world the reason why the patient died of appendicitis. No one before Parkinson imagined that the appendix inflammation was the cause. In 1817, Parkinson described the shaking palsy which was named in his honor.


2. It is easy to remember James Parkinson’s birthday. On 11 April, the entire planet celebrates the World Parkinson’s Day.


3. James Parkinson was born in East London. He was the son of John Parkinson, an apothecary and surgeon, and the oldest of five siblings. the father of the future scholar was a prominent figure as he headed the professional society of British surgeons.


4. James learned the basic medicine under the guidance of his father and at a London hospital. Parkinson started practicing without passing exams. In 1784, he passed exams in Edinburgh and announced to be fit to treat and operate.


5. His father died that same year and James inherited his practice. But he never abandoned his studies. Parkinson, as is known, heard lectures given by the famous surgeons of the time, including the celebrated John Hunter.


6. Before taking up science, Parkinson took interest in politics. During the French Revolution, he published anti-royalist pamphlets but under the pseudonym and joined several political unions. In his speeches and written works, Parkinson advocated for social reforms and universal right of suffrage.


7. Closer to the age of forty, Parkinson settled down and drastically changed his sphere of activity. From 1799 to 1800, Parkinson published several prominent works. In the 500-page home encyclopedia, Medical Admonitions, contained health recommendations. Chemical Pocket Book included main information about chemistry. The Town and Country Friend and Physician was a version of the Medical Admonitions book but in simple terms, while the children’s book, Dangerous Sports, warned of accidents.


8. In the educational activities, Parkinson was that he was – an advocate for health and welfare of people and a defender of the downtrodden. He was particularly zealous in the fight for the rights of the mentally disturbed and their families.


9. In 1812, Parkinson assisted his son during Britain’s first appendectomy. In the article A Case of the Inflamed Vermiform Appendix, John Parkinson and James Parkinson first described this illness and the death of the burst appendix.


10. James Parkinson suffered from gout and the scientist also wrote a book about the disease.


11. But Parkinson’s name was immortalized in a different disease. He observed its symptoms in anything but medical practice – there were plenty of old people with trembling hands on the London streets. An Essay on the Shaking Palsy did not impress the contemporaries nor attracted much of attention. Fifty years later, the wrong was righted and the illness was named in honor of the London physician.


12. Parkinson took interest in fossils and minerals in childhood. His vast collection was famous far beyond England. His three-volume edition Organic Remains of a Former World was published in the early 19th century and this book is branded the first attempt of a scientific glance at paleontology. Parkinson wrote a paleontology textbook, titled Outlines of Oryctology as the science had been called before.


13. Paleontologists also paid tribute to James Parkinson. Several fossil organisms, including the Parkinsonia parkinsoni ammonite, Apiocrinus parkinsoni echinoderm, Rostellaria Parkinsoni snail and Nipa parkinsoni tree, were all named in honor of Parkinson.


14. James Parkinson and the chemist Humphry Davy are venerated as the founders of the Geological Society of London.


15. It is amazing but no portrait of the outstanding scholar is known. Statistically, there are four million people on the planet suffering from Parkinson’s disease but no one knows for certain how its discoverer looked like.