The Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library at Columbia University recently acquired papers of George Huntington (1850-1916), the physician who described the degenerative nervous disease that now bears his name. The papers were donated to the library at a reception on June 21, 2010.
Huntington, who received his medical degree in 1871 from Columbia University's College of Physicians & Surgeons, published a paper in 1872 describing a degenerative nervous disease that was prevalent in one family in his hometown of East Hampton, N.Y. Drawing on the casebooks of his father and grandfather, both physicians in East Hampton, and his own observations while living there, Huntington correctly deduced the hereditary nature of the disease. Although others had described the disease before him, Huntington's clinical description of it was so clear, accurate and concise that the disease soon became known as "Huntington's chorea" and later "Huntington's disease."
This is Huntington's only claim to medical fame; because of ill health, he spent his career as a general practitioner in rural Dutchess County, N.Y. However, his description of the disease that bears his name has garnered him lasting fame. As early as 1908, Sir William Osler remarked of Huntington's 1872 article that "in the history of medicine, there are few instances in which a disease has been more accurately, more graphically or more briefly described."
Elizabeth Lominska Johnson, great-grandaughter of George Huntington, donated the papers through her late mother, Jean Ketcham Lominska. Alice Wexler, faculty member at UCLA and author of a recent book on Huntington and Huntington's disease, facilitated the donation to Columbia. Her sister, Nancy Wexler, Higgins Professor of Neuropsychology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, is a leading Huntington's disease researcher and was a member of the team that discovered the gene which causes the disease.
The papers of George Huntington and his family include correspondence, photographs, drawings—Huntington was evidently a talented amateur artist—and biographical materials such as obituaries, memorial tributes, reminiscences, and his marriage certificate. For further information, researchers should contact Archives & Special Collections at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library's Archives & Special Collections is the repository for the records of Columbia University’s four health science schools as well as a growing collection of personal papers of Columbia faculty and graduates who have had distinguished careers in the biomedical sciences. It currently has about 3300 cubic feet of archival records and personal papers as well as an extensive rare book library. Archives & Special Collections is part of the Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library, one of the largest health sciences libraries in the US with over 300,000 volumes and thousands of journal subscriptions. The Health Sciences Library is part of Columbia University Libraries/Information Services.
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