One century after the description of the "sign": Joseph Babinski and his contribution to neurosurgery

Neurosurgery. 1997 Apr;40(4):822-8; discussion 828. doi: 10.1097/00006123-199704000-00032.


One hundred years ago, in 1896, Joseph Babinski published a preliminary report on "réflexe cutané plantaire" (cutaneous plantar reflex), which became widely known as the Babinski sign. However, Babinski did not view the description of the sign as his major achievement. Instead, he considered his greatest contribution to medicine to be his having "... indiqué la voie à Martel et à Vincent" (pointed the way to Thierry de Martel and Clovis Vincent, founders of French neurosurgery). Several of Babinski's manuscripts deal with neurosurgical problems. In 1900, 1 year before Alfred Fröhlich's description, Babinski gave the first account of the adiposogenital syndrome and its relation to pituitary-hypothalamic disorder. Many other original contributions ensued. These include a report on the relief of papilledema by surgical decompression in 1901, the successful removal (in collaboration with de Martel) of an intracranial meningioma in 1909, the description (again with de Martel) of a cerebellopontine angle tumor treated by surgical excision with good result in 1925, and several manuscripts concerning diagnosis and treatment of compressive spinal cord lesions. Babinski's dream to establish a department of neurosurgery became a reality shortly after his death. The Hôpital de la Pitie in Paris, where Babinski did most of his work, established the first French department of neurosurgery chaired by Babinski's pupil, Vincent.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Eponyms
  • France
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Neurophysiology / history*
  • Neurosurgery / history*
  • Reflex, Babinski*

Personal name as subject

  • J Babinski
  • T de Martel
  • C Vincent