Are these the all-time most influential Neurologists?

Who are the most influential neurologists in history? Not an easy task as the starting field is rather wide. Creating a ‘top list‘ of anything is potentially controversial because there are often no clear inclusion criteria, and justifications are often subjective.


"Alois Alzheimer 003" by uncredited - Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -
“Alois Alzheimer 003” by uncredited – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons –


I was initially swayed by the length of Wikipedia entries but cautioned myself when I noticed that the piece on Raymond Adams was very brief. Furthermore, there was no entry at all for C David Marsden! Sacrilege, I thought. I felt strongly enough about this that I registered as a Wikipedia editor, and now there is a Wikipedia page for David Marsden.

By Joaquín Sorolla (1863 - 1923) ([1]) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Santiago Ramon y Cajal by Joaquín Sorolla (1863 – 1923) ([1]) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Fame and celebrity are also significant influences on ‘top lists’. The debate that followed Gerald Stern‘s article, the world’s best known neurologist, shows the justifiable importance of fame, but I tried hard to discount ‘mere’ celebrity. By the way, Stern’s lecture on this subject is worth viewing.

Eponymous syndromes also tug at the heart, and I discovered that there is a book titled Neurological Eponyms. I have not read it, so I am unbiased in this regard. It is however difficult to avoid the influence of JMS Pearce who seems to have written on every neurology great!

To compose a credible list, I thought a set of criteria was essential and I guided myself with these:

  • Volume, significance, and variety of contribution to neurology
  • Influence on clinical practice
  • Longevity of contribution
  • Breaking new grounds
  • Influence on other Neurology greats
  • Receipt of a Nobel prize
  • Lasting legacy in terms of books 
Jean Marie Charcot by André Brouillet (see below) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Jean Marie Charcot by André Brouillet (see below) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I have been liberal with the term ‘neurologist’ in the context of making this list. I have considered any specialist who has made a significant contribution to neurological knowledge and practice (how else would Alois Alzheimer get on the list?) Did I forget to mention-each name on the list is not living!

George Huntington (c. 1908)
George Huntington (c. 1908)


Here then is my list of The Top 30 Most Influential Neurologists with links to their Wikipedia entries:

  1. Raymond ADAMS
  2. Alois ALZHEIMER
  3. Joseph BABINSKI
  4. Charles BELL
  5. Paul BROCA
  6. Santiago Ramón y CAJAL
  7. Jean-Martin CHARCOT
  8. Macdonald CRITCHLEY
  9. Guillaume DUCHENNE
  10. Charles Miller FISHER
  11. Nikolaus FRIEDREICH
  12. Norman GESCHWIND
  13. William Richard GOWERS
  14. Anita HARDING
  15. Gordon Morgan HOLMES
  16. George HUNTINGTON
  17. John Hughlings JACKSON
  18. Gheorghe MARINESCU
  20. Pierre MARIE
  21. C David MARSDEN
  22. H Houston MERRITT
  23. Antonio Egas MONIZ
  24. James PARKINSON
  25. Arnold PICK
  26. Heinrich Irenaeus QUINCKE
  27. Charles Scott SHERRINGTON
  28. Charles Putnam SYMONDS
  29. Thomas WILLIS
  30. Samuel Alexander Kinnier WILSON


"An unidentified man" by Unknown - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -
“An unidentified man” by Unknown – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –


There are however too many influential neurologists, and to do justice to more of them, here is The Neurology Lounge Top 100 Neurology Greats.

If you think there is a name that is not on this list, and you strongly feel that it should be, please let me know (but you must suggest which name on the list should be replaced!) And by the way, do you have a photo of C David Marsden for his Wikipedia entry?




6 thoughts on “Are these the all-time most influential Neurologists?

  1. It is sad that there is only a single woman on this list.

    I wonder if, on similar lists composed for other medical specialities, there would also be such a dearth of female names, or if this has been a problem particular to neurology over the last 100 years.

    I hope that if this list were to be re-written at the end of my career, we might see a few more women make it to the “top 30”!


    1. Good observation Joe. This list is of historical personalities and I am sure it will be the same in other specialities and professions. There is however no doubt the gender imbalance will be redressed as reflected by current academic output


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