Pioneering concepts in epileptology: the cerebral dysrhythmia of Frederic Gibbs (1903-92) and William Lennox (1884-1960)

J Clin Neurosci. 2011 Aug;18(8):1038-43. doi: 10.1016/j.jocn.2010.12.051. Epub 2011 Jun 30.


The development of the electroencephalogram and its use in the study of epilepsy supplied the research team of William Lennox and Frederic (Frederick) Gibbs at Harvard University with an entirely new method of studying the epileptic activity of the brain. The abnormal activity, thought to be a "dysrhythmia", seemed to indicate a central role for inheritance in this condition, and there seemed a more considerable penetration of inheritable epileptic tendency in the community than at first thought. Lennox, who had a long-held interest in eugenics, felt that further study was needed and this he undertook in his famous "Twin Series" exploring epilepsy in identical and non-identical twin pairs. Frederic and Erna Gibbs, however, went on to study the electrical activity accompanying various clinical seizure types. These were the early days of electroencephalography, and mistaken over-emphasis given to various forms of non-specific slower components introduced conceptual errors in both areas of research. However, the overall results of this pioneering research provided very significant advances in epileptology.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy / etiology
  • Epilepsy / history*
  • Epilepsy / pathology*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurology / history*
  • Neurology / methods

Personal name as subject

  • Frederic Gibbs
  • William Lennox