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Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard Edit Profile

physician , Physiologist

Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard was a French physiologist and neurologist, a pioneer endocrinologist and neurophysiologist who was among the first to work out the physiology of the spinal cord. He the first to describe what is now called Brown-Séquard syndrome.


He was born a British subject in Port Louis, Mauritius, on April 8, 1817, of an American father and a French mother.


Brown-Séquard went to Paris in 1838 to study medicine, and he received his degree in 1846. His medical thesis on the physiology of the spinal cord was an indication of the interests he would pursue in his subsequent career.


In 1856 he noted the fatal consequences of the excision of the adrenal glands, an observation which qualified him as one of the founders of endocrinology. His other work, predominantly on the brain and spinal cord, included experimentally induced epilepsy, and the effects of stimulation of the cervical sympathetic nerves on blood vessels. Brown-Séquard's work as a lecturer and physician took him to America, France, Britain, Mauritius, and other countries. From 1860 to 1863 he was head of the National Hospital for the Paralyzed and Epileptics in London, where he also enjoyed great prestige as a practicing neurologist. As a professor of physiology he lectured at Harvard University from 1864 to 1867 and was on the Paris Faculty of Medicine from 1869 to 1872. He also held appointments at the Medical College of Richmond (1854), and to the Chair of Medicine at the College of France in 1878. Brown-Séquard founded two scientific journals in Paris--Journal de la Physiologie de l'homme et des animaux (1858 to 1863; "Journal of the Physiology of Man and Animals"); and Archives de Physiologie normale et pathologique (1868 to 1894; "Archives of Normal and Pathological Physiology"). In 1873 he also began the Archives of Scientific and Practical Medicine in New York. His favorite forum was the Society of Biology, of which he became president in 1887. In later years, Brown-Séquard's research on rejuvenation by means of a testicular extract with himself as the experimental subject brought unfavorable publicity and created a medical furor. However, these experiments, along with his recognition of the importance of internal secretions in general, gave him a place in the development of organotherapy. He died in Sceaux, near Paris, on Apil 2, 1894.


  • Brown-Séquard contributed largely to our knowledge of the blood and animal heat, as well as many facts of the highest importance on the nervous system. He was the first scientist to work out the physiology of the spinal cord, demonstrating that the decussation of the fibres carrying pain and temperature sensation occurs in the cord itself. His name was immortalised in the history of medicine with the description of a syndrome which bears his name (Brown-Séquard syndrome) due to the hemisection of the spinal cord, which he described after observing accidental injury of the spinal cord in farmers cutting sugar cane in Mauritius.


In 1886 Brown-Séquard was elected to the Board of the Sugar Club. He also was a member of the Royal Society of London.