1862. Alfred Vulpian

Edmé Félix Alfred Vulpian (1826-1887) was a French physician and together with Charcot one of the founder of the French neurological school. Influenced by the French physiologist Jean Pierre Flourens (1794-1867) Vulpian entered into medical school where he received his medical degree (1853) with a doctoral thesis on the origin of the cranial nerves III to X. He was appointed as hospital doctor (1857) and succeeded Léon Jean Baptiste Cruveilhier (1791-1874) as professor of pathological anatomy at the faculty (1867).

In 1862, Vulpian and Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893) took possession of the Salpêtrière, which, at that time, was only a chaotic welfare institution for the chronically ill. Even if his figure was historically overshadowed by Charcot, his studies were essential for the development of clinical neurology and neuro-physiology. In particular, he confirmed the role of cerebellum and ventricular system in the maintenance of static equilibrium, as proposed by Flourens. He established principles of nerve regenerations, discovered the chromaffin system of the adrenal gland (supposing the role of adrenalin in vasoconstriction) and demonstrated the etio-pathology of paralysis due to curare toxin. Clinically, he was the co-discoverer of Vulpian-Bernhardt spinal muscular atrophy and the Vulpian-Heidenhain-Sherrington phenomenon. Together with Charcot he founded the journal Archives de Physiologie Normale et Pathologique and wrote more than 225 publications, influencing the works of many young French neurologists, such as Joseph Dejerine and his wife.

Out of the neurological field, he was also the first to use the term “fibrillation” to describe a chaotic irregular rhythm of the heart.

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