Commemoration of the 160th anniversary of Augusta Dejerine-Klumpke’s birth

The anniversary of Augusta Dejerine-Klumpke birth (160 years) was on October 15. The Wins organized, together with the ICM (ICM Institute for Brain and Spinal Cord) historians and scientists, a learning day and an exhibition at the ICM institute in Paris.

The day was sponsored also by FENS.

Accompanied by friends and supporters, on October 14 we embarked on this adventure, to Paris.

The idea was born during our visit to the Dejerine Collection (closed to the public) on June 21, 2018. (link). With the collaboration of Annalisa Plaitano, we met the curator of the archive, Éloïse Quétel, who showed us all the documents, medical records and photographs, preserved in the collection. With the help of Jacqueline Mikol we entered the Dejerine world. Observing all those precious finds the Augusta Dejerine-klumpke’s purpose sounded in our mind: her drawings, her reports, were aimed at the future, as teaching and inspiration to the future scientists. So we began to think about an event to celebrate this, alas, forgotten scientist.

A journey that lasted a year.

Incredibly, the availability of the Auditorium was offered to us by Jean Todt, president of the FIA and vice-president of the ICM! (Tiziana Metitieri – as a Formula 1 fan – wrote him boldly).

The day took place with two symposia and an exhibition.

The first symposium, moderated by Claudine Hermann, focused on the figure of Augusta Dejerine-Klumpke. Michel Fardeau, Jacques Poirier and Jacqueline Mikol illustrated Augusta’s life and work. Augusta Marie Dejerine-Klumpke had not only a scientific career, but was able to practice medicine in the hospital and become an exceptional neurologist and neuroanatomist, and she gave her name to a particular lesion of the lower parts of the brachial plexus (Klumpke’s palsy). She had an intense scientific life, studded with innumerable prizes and awards: the Anatomy award for free teaching in 1878-1879, the Godard award of the Academy of Medicine in 1886; the silver medal from the Faculty of Medicine of Paris and the Lallemand prize of the prestigious Académie des Sciences for the doctoral thesis in 1890; a first Legion of Honor for her scientific studies in 1913 and a second one in 1921 with the rank of Officer for her great work in the care of wounded soldiers during the war. She was the first woman to become president of the French Neurology Society in 1914. Despite all the credit and recognition, she was a shy and reserved woman, but she was able to fight for her ideas and beliefs if she thought it necessary. In debates and controversies she intervened with a hesitant voice at first moment, but then  the tone became higher. Each attack responded with a counterattac with iron logic and incontrovertible evidence. The Dejerines are remembered above all for the drafting of their neuroanatomical manual, fundamental for the neuroanatomy of the epoch. Although the name of Augusta on the book was written in small, French historians agree that the book is more of Augusta than of her husband.

The role played by Augusta in the laboratory had the same dignity as that one of her husband and was also consecrated by a comics of the time.

To learn more about the history of this incredible neuroscientist, visit the page dedicated to her: link

The second symposium, moderated by Yves Agid, deepened the scientific legacy of the Dejerines. Olivier Walusinski deepened the career of the Dejerines’ students, while Stéphane Lehéricy illustrated the modern techniques of neuroanatomy.

The day ended with the presentation of 3 clinical cases followed by Augusta Dejerine-Klumpke. Éloïse Quétel showed the three cases collected and stored in the Dejerine collection: medical records, slides and photographs.

Moreover Olivier Walusinski, enthusiastic about the day, displayed original historical material of the Dejerine couple in his possession.

The ICM French group commented on our day:

“We liked your idea around Augusta so much that we decided to dedicate our next annual meeting on the neuroscience’s history to the ICM to the neuroscientist women .”

Friday, December 13, 2019 to Paris, at the ICM la Salpetrière, our Tiziana Metitieri was invited to the annual interview, where she will give a communication on Rita Levi Montalcini. (program)

It was hard to get there but it was a memorable day.

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