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James Parkinson, 250th Anniversary by Tom Gorman

February 12, 2004

This year marks the 250th anniversary of James Parkinson's birth on April 11, 1755 in London, England. In relation to other noteworthy events, Parkinson was born twenty-one-years before George Washington's troops won the battle at Harlem Heights, north of the current day Central Park. (The Park itself did not come into formal existence until the 1850's).

Parkinson's "Shaking Palsy" essay was published in 1817, three years after the English tried destroying Baltimore's Ft. McHenry. While retained on an enemy ship in the Baltimore harbor, Francis Scott Key penned the "Star Spangled Banner" that proclaimed the American victory. Eventually set to music, Key's poem went on to more fame and stature than the "Shaking Palsy," at least in this country. Parkinson died on December 21, 1824. Two retired Presidents, Adams and Jefferson, were still corresponding with each other.

Parkinson himself was all but forgotten until 1912. J.G. Rowntree of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore wrote the (in)famous observation: English born, English bred, forgotten by the English and world at large, such was the fate of James Parkinson." Parkinson may have been forgotten, but "his" disease certainly isn't.

Tom Gorman

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