Barry Blackwell’s further comment on Samuel Gershon’s comment on Edward Shorter’s comment
Johan Schioldann’s History of the Introduction of Lithium into Medicine and Psychiatry
Reviewed by Barry Blackwell


       Sam Gershon was kind enough to copy me on his e-mail exchange with Ned Shorter concerning aspects of my review of Schioldann’s book.

       Sam’s personal knowledge of the historical background to the controversies and questions swirling around the lithium story is encyclopedic as well as personal, so we all can learn from his telling of it.

       His comments on Hammond’s work at Bellevue Hospital in New York during the mid to late 1880s is especially intriguing since it preceded the Lange brothers’ work in Denmark and was clearly ground-breaking in its scope as the first clinical use of lithium for mania. Although Hammond established its clinical efficacy and a dosage regimen for mania he never mentioned depression (the reverse of the Lange’s contribution) and apparently stopped using it for no known reason, without mentioning toxicity.

       What continues to puzzle me is that Schou never acknowledged his father’s or his Norwegian ancestors as the progenitors of his own involvement with lithium. He chose instead to attribute primacy to Cade in glowing terms, but whose work in animals he was unable to replicate.

       This adds complexity to Berrios’s assertion that primacy in discovery is often clothed in nationalistic myth making. Schioldann, de Moore, Westmore, Johnson and perhaps Cade himself may contribute to that theory while Schou, Gershon, Blackwell and Shorter (all from different national origins) appear to dissent. Does this denounce the myth-making hypothesis or does Hammond make the issue moot?   


May 10, 2018