Historical underpinnings of the term essential tremor in the late 19th century

E. D. Louis, E. Broussolle, C. G. Goetz, P. Krack, P. Kaufmann, P. Mazzoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND:: The term essential tremor has been in regular use since the second half of the 20th century. To modern neurologists, the word essential may seem cryptic. The historical underpinnings of this term have not been examined. OBJECTIVES:: To bring to attention early medical reports using the term essential tremor and examine the characteristics of the disorder that contributed to the proposed use of the term. METHODS:: Review of 19th and early 20th century medical literature on essential tremor. RESULTS:: The term tremore semplice essenziale (simple essential tremor) was first used by Burresi (Italy, 1874) to describe an 18-year-old man with severe, isolated action tremor. Several years later, Maragliano (Italy, 1879), Nagy (Austria, 1890), and Raymond (France, 1892) described similar cases and proposed the terms tremore essenziale congenito (essential congenital tremor), essentieller Tremor (essential tremor), and tremblement essentiel háráditaire (hereditary essential tremor) to define the illness. Mirroring contemporaneous views of constitutional and inherited disease, the key ingredients of the disorder were viewed as the constant presence of tremor in the absence of other neurologic signs and its heritable nature. By the early 20th century, the term began to appear in the medical literature with greater frequency. CONCLUSIONS:: Toward the end of the 19th century, several clinicians attempted to provide a nosologic separation for a tremor diathesis that was often familial and occurred in isolation of other neurologic signs. This disorder, which was termed essential tremor, was later recognized as one of the most common neurologic disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)856-859
Number of pages4
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 9 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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