The early struggles of the fledgling American Academy of Neurology: Resistance from the old guard of American neurology

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

The American Neurological Association, established in 1874, was a small exclusive society comprising senior neurologists at a select number of north-eastern academic institutions. In 1948, an attempt was made to establish a second neurological society in the USA. The American Academy of Neurology was formed around a group of young neurologists who represented the country's Midwest and other regions. The American Academy of Neurology is now the larger of the two organizations, even though the American Academy of Neurology began as a small and politically vulnerable organization, arising in the shadow of the powerful and established American Neurological Association. How did the 75-year-old association react when a second, seemingly redundant, neurological association attempted to organize? This question has not been the focus of historical work, and the purpose of this study was to address this. To do so, the author studied the primary source materials in the American Academy of Neurology Historical Collection and the papers of Dr Henry Alsop Riley, an American neurologist, who was influential in both the American Neurological Association and American Academy of Neurology. On its formation, the American Academy of Neurology did not enter a vacuum. Indeed, the long-existing American Neurological Association actively resisted the new organization. There was reluctance to accept the new idea on a conceptual level, a formal attempt to hijack the new organization and discussions about punitive actions against its founder, while at the same time an attempt to bring him into the American Neurological Association leadership. Although the American Neurological Association attempted to frame itself as the patrician 'upper chamber' of American neurology, the American Academy of Neurology leadership was ultimately savvier at political manoeuvring and use of government agencies and funding organizations. The struggle of the American Academy of Neurology with the American Neurological Association was in many ways one manifestation of a larger societal struggle in a post-bellum (post-World War II) America with a changing demographic. The struggle involved the rise of democratic medical populism in the country's Midwest versus establishment medicine (mainly situated in the Northeast), and perhaps, the rise of the middle class versus the aristocrats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-354
Number of pages12
JournalBrain
Volume136
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • 20th century
  • American Academy of Neurology
  • American Neurological Association
  • history
  • neurology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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