consulting room of Dr. Tourette in Paris, 39 rue de l'Université


Biography of Georges Gilles de la Tourette  written by Hermann Krämer

A b s t r a c t

Georges Albert Édouard Brutus Gilles de la Tourette (1857-1904), a French neurologist and pupil of Jean Martin Charcot at the Salpêtrière hospital, has gained common recognition through his description of the "Maladie des Tics". This complex neuropsychiatric disorder, later known as the "Tourette's syndrome", nowadays is accepted as a specific entity of movement disorders.

Gilles had started working under Charcot (1825-1893), the first pure neurologist of medical history, in 1884. At this time the Salpêtrière hospital was a centre of intensive research with an emphasis on hysteria and hypnosis. Tourette took an interest in hysteria, but also dedicated himself to various other neuropsychiatric disorders and to neuropathology. He published scientific works on epilepsia, neurasthenia and myelitic syphilitis. Although he invested much time into neuropsychiatric research and the publication of articles in medical journals, concerning his career there was no significant progress, in spite of Charcot's unrestricted support. One reason was that he did not care about questions, answers and problems, which did not interest him, and so he was criticized, that he had acquired an extremely filtered and one-sided knowledge. Also his frank and critical behaviour, which had not helped him to find many friends over the years, prevented him from promotion.

In 1893 a calamity on Gilles de la Tourette kept busy the local press: Gilles was shot in his apartment in the Rue de l'Université 39 by a young woman, who had been a patient in the Salpêtrière and who claimed that she had been hypnotized without her agreement and thereby had lost her mental health. Competent physicians diagnosed a disease nowadays called paranoid schizophrenia and therefore it was concluded, that hypnosis was not the cause of any part of the disease. 

In 1901 Gilles de la Tourette was forced to leave his hospital appointment suffering from episodes of melancholia taking turns with states of manic expansivity and megalomania. These symptoms and the corresponding neurological signs lead to the diagnosis paretic syphilitis. He was admitted at the psychiatric hospital Cery near Lausanne, Switzerland, and prevented from leaving the hospital by force. In the course of the following three years he became increasingly psychotic and demented and finally died in hospital on 22nd May 1904.


Biography Georges Gilles de la Tourette  (pdf)