Although credit is given to Sir William Gull for highlighting the clinical picture of subarachnoid hemorrhage in 1859, we discuss a case presented by Mr. Egerton A. Jennings, Fellow of the Linnaean Society, published 23 years earlier in the 1836 edition of the Transactions of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association. This case, probably the first reported in the English language of a basilar aneurysm rupture, is of medico-historical interest. Jennings provided a remarkably accurate and detailed description of the patient, who experienced coma as a result of the severity of subarachnoid hemorrhage. The detailed clinical observations on initial assessment and the description of the patient's deterioration to the time of death are a succinct representation of the natural history of this disease. The author's discussion provides evidence of a philosophy committed to medical education and progress at the time based on principles of rational observation, meticulous clinical acumen, insight into experimental physiology, and the awareness of ethical boundaries. In provincial 1836 England, similar to most of Europe, cerebral localization was elementary. Nonetheless, this case report highlights the attempt at linking structure to function by means of observation on the effects of lesioning. It provides evidence of an established thought process already in progress in England in the 19th century. It is characteristic that this thought process came from a surgical practitioner. The cultivation of practical observation in British surgical culture would allow the late 19th century surgeon scientists to match the contributions of British neurologists with landmark steps in the development and establishment of neurosurgery.
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