A second collection of clinical case studies by Klawans, this one more polished and less self-conscious than Toscanini's...


NEWTON'S MADNESS: Further Tales of Clinical Neurology

A second collection of clinical case studies by Klawans, this one more polished and less self-conscious than Toscanini's Fumble (1988). Klawans seems to have found the right level of popular science writing without condescension and overbearing authority. Again, the range is wide and the human interest strong. The title piece relates the evidence that, at two periods of his life, Newton suffered mercury poisoning, the fruit of intense alchemical experiments, manifested in social withdrawal, tremor, insomnia, paranoia, failing memory, and other unpleasant symptoms. Mercury poisoning was also the bane of hatters, memorialized in Lewis Carroll's Mad Hatter. Klawans goes on to describe various forms of stroke, epilepsy (in this case notable for the pleasurable aura before the seizure), and the movement disorders that have been his dominant interest. The good news about Parkinson's disease is that there is now a drug that can delay the onset of symptoms; the bad news is that Klawans is now seeing more patients who are living longer but developing further deterioration of brain cells leading to a condition called progressive supranuclear palsy. Klawans cures a professor with a true case of writer's cramp by providing him with the triangular wraparound device that helps children write, confessing that he suffers the same ailment. He tells a woeful tale of an obese woman who underwent gastric surgery and subsequently suffered brain damage because she was slowly starving to death. There are happy endings also, apocryphal tales, comments on Sherlock Holmes' drug habits, and an especially warm regard for Klawans' mother, who managed his Parkinson's clinic in her late years, providing TLC and cookies for patients--and occasionally adding her own sharp diagnoses. Good reading here for medical students, too, thanks to the carefully provided references.

Pub Date: May 9, 1990


Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1990