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Georges Gilles de la Tourette

AKA George Albert Edouard Brutus Gilles de la Tourette

Born: 30-Oct-1857
Birthplace: Saint-Gervais-les-Trois-Clochers, France
Died: 26-May-1904
Location of death: Lausanne, Switzerland
Cause of death: Syphilis
Remains: Buried, Family Cemetery, Loudun, France

Gender: Male
Religion: Christian
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Doctor, Psychiatrist

Nationality: France
Executive summary: Tourette's syndrome

French neuropsychiatrist Georges Gilles de la Tourette was an expert on epilepsy, hysteria and hypnotism, but made his most lasting contribution to medicine with an 1884 paper describing nine patients afflicted with involuntary motor and vocal tics, sometimes accompanied by bursts of "notorious cursing". He determined that the disorder usually began in childhood and that more males than females were affected, and in later studies he found that the ailment is hereditary and not a progressive degenerative disorder, that episodes of uncontrollable spasms usually start in the face or upper extremities, and that the symptoms come and go without warning but that stress or sleep deprivation can make these attacks worse or more frequent. The disease Tourette described is now named for him, Tourette's syndrome.

During his own lifetime, Tourette was more famous, at least beyond medical circles, for the widespread and lurid media coverage of an attempt on his life. He was shot in 1893 by Rose Kamper, a former patient who had accused him of hypnotizing her against her will. He recovered from the superficial head wound, and his attacker was diagnosed with what is now called paranoid schizophrenia, leading the authorities to deem the charges against Tourette unfounded. The attack, however, sparked intense public debate over the question of whether hypnosis could be used to induce criminal behavior in otherwise law-abiding citizens, and made Tourette something of a local laughing stock.

In 1899 he published a paper on the advance of syphilis into neurosyphilis, where the disease attacks the patient's brain and/or spine, leading to insanity or paralysis or both. Recognizing some of his own syphilis symptoms, Tourette sank into depression and began having suicidal thoughts. Already characterized as mentally unbalanced by local newspapers, he refused to seek treatment, but in 1901 a colleague informed Tourette -- falsely -- that a patient in dire need had asked for his services at an asylum near Lucerne. Tourette dutifully presented himself at the asylum, where he was forcibly held until his death three years later at the age of 47.

Father: Theodore (merchant)
Wife: Marie
Son: Jean (d. 1893, meningitis)
Son: Francois
Daughter: Jeanne (d. 1979)
Daughter: Madeleine

    High School: Châtellerault School, Châtellerault, France
    University: University of Poitiers
    Medical School: MD, University of Paris (1879)
    Teacher: University of Paris (1879-94)
    Professor: Medicine, University of Paris (1894-1901)

    Shot 6-Dec-1893 Paris, France
    French Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Depression, Syphilis

Author of books:
L'hypnotisme et les états analogues au point de vue médico-légal (Hypnotism and Related Matters in Forensic Medicine) (1887)
La nutrition dans l'hystérie (Nutrition and Hysteria) (1890)
Le traitement pratique de l'épilepsie (The Practical Treatment of Epilepsy) (1901)

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