Lennox, William Gordon, 1884-1960

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1884
Death 1960

Biographical notes:

William Gordon Lennox (1884-1960), M.D. 1913, Harvard Medical School, was Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, and one of the leading researchers of epilepsy in the United States in the 20th century. He became interested in epilepsy and epileptics when he found that little research was available on the clinical or sociological aspects of epilepsy and thus devoted his career to discovering the cause of epilepsy and developing a treatment for the condition. Lennox joined Dr. Stanley Cobb at Harvard Medical School in 1922 where he studied the glucose metabolism of epileptics. In 1934, he shifted his research focus to the study of brain waves, and with the collaboration of Hallowell Davis and Walter Cannon, he developed the electroencephalogram. His study of the brain waves of twins led him to establish the Seizure Unit at Children's Hospital in 1947, which specialized in diagnostic and research training. Lennox's research contributions included proving the effect of the drug dilantin on seizures, genetics, and founded the American Epilepsy League and the Committee for Public Understanding of Epilepsy. In 1960, Lennox published Epilepsy and Related Disorders, which was considered the standard study on epilepsy.

From the description of Papers, 1926-1953. (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 231042883

William Gordon Lennox (1884-1960) was Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School from 1922-1958. Lennox's research focused on epilepsy and he is credited, with Hallowell Davis and Walter Cannon, with developing the electroengephalograph in 1934.

Lennox was born in Colorado Springs, Colo. in 1884. In 1909, he graduated from Colorado College hoping to become a missionary. He attended Harvard Medical School where he graduated from in 1913. After medical school, Lennox served as house officer at the Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1917, he joined the staff of the Peking Union Medical College and traveled to China where he witnessed first hand the amount of illness that missionaries experienced. Lennox later documented their plight in his Master's of Public Health thesis, The Health of Missionary Families in China: a Statistical Study, which he wrote in 1921 at the University of Denver. He became interested in epilepsy while in China when the reoccurring convulsions suffered by a friend’s daughter brought the disorder to his attention.

When Lennox returned to the United States, he found that little research was available on the clinical or sociological aspects of epilepsy; consequently, he devoted his career to discovering its cause and developing a treatment for the condition. Lennox joined Stanley Cobb at Harvard Medical School in 1922 where he studied the glucose metabolism of epileptics. In 1934, Lennox began investigating electrical brain waves, and with the assistance of Hallowell Davis and Walter Cannon, he developed the electroengephalograph, a tool that is used to detect problems in the electrical activity of the brain. His study of the brain waves of twins led him to establish the Seizure Unit at Children’s Hospital in 1947, which specialized in diagnostic and research training. His other contributions were in proving the effect of the drug Dilantin on seizures, genetics, and his involvement in the organization of the American Epilepsy League and the Committee for Public Understanding of Epilepsy. In addition, Lennox was the president of the International Epilepsy League from 1938-1939 and served on the medical advisory board of the National Epilepsy League, Inc.

Throughout his career, Lennox published 293 papers, many of which were written collaboratively with other clinicians including Frederick Gibbs, Edna Leonard Gibbs, and Stanley Cobb. He also published three books, Epilepsy from the Standpoint of Physiology and Treatment, (1928) and Science and Seizures, (1941). In 1960, after years of collaboration with his daughter, Margaret Lennox Buchthal, Lennox published Epilepsy and Related Disorders, which was considered the standard study on epilepsy.

From the guide to the Papers, 1926-1953, (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. Center for the History of Medicine.)

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Subjects:

  • Epilepsy
  • Epilepsy literature

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