13 Medical Conditions Named After People

RTimages/iStock via Getty Images
RTimages/iStock via Getty Images

Having a disease named after you is a decidedly mixed bag. On the one hand, your scientific developments are forever commemorated. On the other hand, though, you're stuck with the knowledge that no patient will ever be happy upon hearing your name. Who are the scientists and doctors behind some of our most famous diseases and conditions, though? Here are a few of the physicians and their eponymous ailments.

1. Crohn's disease

The inflammatory digestive disease could just have easily ended up with the name Ginzburg's disease or Oppenheimer's disease. In 1932, three New York physicians named Burrill Bernard Crohn, Leon Ginzburg, and Gordon Oppenheimer published a paper describing a new sort of intestinal inflammation. Since Crohn's name was listed first alphabetically, the condition ended up bearing his name.

2. Salmonellosis

Yes, the salmonella menace that haunts undercooked chicken is named after a person. Daniel Elmer Salmon was a veterinary pathologist who ran a USDA microorganism research program during the late 19th century. Although Salmon didn't actually discover the type of bacterium that now bears his name—famed epidemiologist Theobald Smith isolated the bacteria in 1885—he ran the research program in which the discovery occurred. Smith and his colleagues named the bacteria salmonella in honor of their boss.

3. Parkinson's disease

James Parkinson was a busy fellow. While the English apothecary had a booming medical business, he also dabbled in geology, paleontology, and politics; Parkinson even published a three-volume scientific study of fossils. Following a late-18th-century foray into British politics where he advocated a number of social causes and found himself briefly ensnared in an alleged plot to assassinate King George III, Parkinson turned his attention to medicine. Parkinson did some research on gout and peritonitis, but it was his landmark 1817 study "An Essay on the Shaking Palsy" that affixed his name to Parkinson's disease.

4. Huntington's disease

George Huntington wasn't the most prolific researcher, but he made his papers count. In 1872, a fresh-out-of-med-school Huntington published one of two research papers he would write in his life. In the paper, Huntington described the effects of the neurodegenerative disorder that now bears his name after examining several generations of family that all suffered from the genetic condition.

5. Alzheimer's disease

In 1901, German neuropathologist Alois Alzheimer began observing an odd patient at a Frankfurt asylum. The 51-year-old woman, Mrs. Auguste Deter, had no short-term memory and behaved strangely. When Mrs. Deter died in 1906, Alzheimer began to dissect the patient's brain, and he presented his findings that November in what was the first formal description of presenile dementia.

6. Tourette syndrome

Credit George Gilles de la Tourette for his modesty. When the French neurologist first described the illness that now bears his name in 1884, he didn't name it after himself. Instead, he referred to the condition as "maladie des tics." Tourette's mentor and contemporary Jean-Martin Charcot renamed the illness after Tourette.

Tourette didn't have such great luck with patients, though. In 1893, a deluded former patient shot the doctor in the head. The woman claimed that she lost her sanity after Tourette hypnotized her. Tourette survived the attack.

7. Hodgkin's lymphoma

British pathologist Thomas Hodgkin first described the cancer that now bears his name while working at Guy's Hospital in London in 1832. Hodgkin published the study "On Some Morbid Appearances of the Absorbent Glands and Spleen" that year, but the condition didn't bear his name until a fellow physician, Samuel Wilks, rediscovered Hodgkin's work.

8. Bright's disease

The kidney disease bears the name of Richard Bright, an English physician and colleague of Hodgkin's at Guy's Hospital. Bright began looking into the causes of kidney trouble during the 1820s, and in 1827 he described an array of kidney ailments that eventually became known as Bright's disease. Today, doctors understand many of the symptoms historically clumped together as Bright's disease are in fact different maladies, so the term is rarely used.

9. Addison's disease

Guy's Hospital was apparently the place to work in the 19th century if you wanted to have a disease named after you. Thomas Addison, a colleague of Bright and Hodgkin at Guy's Hospital, first described the adrenal disorder we call Addison's disease in 1855. On top of this discovery, Addison also published an early study of appendicitis.

10. Tay-Sachs disease

Although both of their names are attached to this genetic disorder, Warren Tay and Bernard Sachs didn't work together. In fact, they didn't even work in the same country. Tay, a British opthalmologist, first described the disease's characteristic red spot on the retina in 1881. In 1887 Bernard Sachs, a colleague of Burrill Crohn at Mount Sinai Hospital, described the cellular effects of the disease and its prevalence among Ashkenazi Jews.

11. Turner syndrome

The chromosomal disorder got its name from Oklahoma doctor Henry Turner, who first described the condition in 1938.

12. Klinefelter's syndrome

The genetic condition in which males have an extra X chromosome bears the name of Harry Klinefelter, a young Boston endocrinologist who published a landmark study while working under the tutelage of endocrinology star Dr. Fuller Albright in 1942. Albright pushed his young protégé to be the lead author of the paper that described the condition, so the young Klinefelter's name is forever associated with the syndrome.

13. Asperger's syndrome

Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger first described the syndrome that now bears his name in 1944 after observing a group of children who suffered from what Asperger described as "autistic psychopathy." (He called his patients "Little Professors.") Interestingly, since Asperger's research was all written in German, his contributions to the literature went unrecognized until much later. The term "Asperger's syndrome" didn't come into widespread usage until 1981. Today it's classified as an autism spectrum disorder.

This story originally appeared in 2009.

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The Hidden Meanings Behind 11 Common Tombstone Symbols

Tombstone symbols can sometimes be hard to interpret.
Tombstone symbols can sometimes be hard to interpret.
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Walk through any cemetery in the world and you’ll find a solemn landscape that honors loved ones that have passed on. Accompanying the inscriptions of names, dates, and family crests are some common symbols that crop up repeatedly on tombstones. If you’ve ever wondered what they could mean, take a look at some of the explanations behind the graveyard graphics.

1. Eye

The eyes have it.Valerie Everett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you feel someone may be looking at you in the cemetery, you might be near a tombstone engraved with an eye. Often surrounded in a burst of sunlight or a triangle, an eye typically represents the all-seeing eye of God and could denote that the decedent was a Freemason.

2. Clasped Hands

Hands on a tombstone can mean several things.Christina Ramey, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Seeing two hands clasped together can illustrate shaking hands or holding hands, depending on the position of the thumbs. A handshake can mean a greeting to eternal life. If clasped hands have different cuffs, it could indicate a bond between the deceased and a spouse or relative. If one hand is higher than the other, it could also mean that a person is being welcomed by a loved one or a higher power. The hand engraving grew into wide use during the Victorian era.

3. Dove

Doves appear in a variety of poses on tombstones.Tim Green, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A dove usually symbolizes peace and the Holy Spirit, but its specific meaning depends on how the bird is posed. If it’s flying upward, the soul is ascending to heaven. If it’s flying down, it represents the Holy Spirit arriving at the baptism of Jesus Christ. If it’s holding an olive branch in its mouth, it refers to an ancient Greek belief that olive branches could ward off evil spirits.

4. Broken Chain

Chains on tombstones can be linked or broken.Carl Wycoff, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Medieval wisdom once held that a golden chain kept the soul in the body. In death, the chain is broken and the soul is freed. If the chain is unbroken and if it features the letters FLT (for Friendship, Love, and Truth), it probably means the deceased belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization that seeks to promote charitable causes and offer aid.

5. Book

The meaning of a book on a tombstone isn't always easy to read.Carl Wycoff, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Was the deceased an avid reader? Maybe, but not necessarily. An open book on a tombstone might refer to a sacred text like the Bible, the “book of life,” or the person’s willingness to learn. If you see a dog-earned corner on the right side, it could indicate the person’s life ended prematurely and before their “book” was finished.

6. Finger Pointing Up

An index finger pointing up can direct visitors to look up.Christina Ramey, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A hand with the index finger raised skyward is one of the more ambiguous symbols found in graveyards. It might be pointing to heaven, or indicate the fact that the decedent has risen from the land of the living.

7. Corn

Ears of corn could mean the deceased was a farmer.mike krzeszak, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A corn stalk on a tombstone means the deceased could have been a farmer; it used to be a custom to send corn instead of floral arrangements to a farmer’s family. It might represent other kinds of grain. Alternately, corn seeds can symbolize rebirth.

8. Scroll

Scrolls on a tombstone can refer to an unknown future.Kelly Teague, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A scroll engraved on a tombstone with both ends rolled up can indicate that part of life has already unfolded while the future is hidden.

9. Lamp

Lamps can mean a love of knowledge.Sean, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

A lamp on a tombstone could speak to a love of learning or knowledge, or it might refer to how the spirit is immortal.

10. Camel

Camels aren't something you'd expect to see on a tombstone.Glen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

While this particular camel signifies the Imperial Camel Corps that occupied desert regions during World War I, a camel can also represent a long journey or a skilled guide—in this case, for the afterlife.

11. Hourglass

An hourglass can be a message to the living.justiny8s, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

As you may have guessed, the hourglass symbolizes the march of time. An hourglass on its end may mean the deceased died suddenly, while a winged hourglass communicates how quickly time flies. It may also be construed as a message to the living—time is short, so don’t waste it.