Joseph Babinski

Joseph Jules François Félix Babinski (born November 17, 1857, Paris; died October 29, 1932, Paris) was a French neurologist of Polish ethnicity. He is best known for his 1896 description of the Babinski sign, a pathological plantar reflex indicative of corticospinal tract damage.


Babiński was the son of a Polish engineer and his wife who in 1848 fled Warsaw for Paris because of a Russian reign of terror instigated to stall Polish attempts at achieving independence.

Babiński received his medical degree from the University of Paris in 1884. He came early to Professor Charcot at Paris' "Salpêtrière" Hospital and became his favorite student.

Charcot's 1893 death left Babiński without support, and he subsequently never participated in qualifying academic competitions. Free of teaching duties, while working at the "Hôpital de la Pitié" he was left with ample time to devote himself to clinical neurology. He was a masterly clinician, minimally dependent on neuropathological examinations and laboratory tests.

Babiński also took an interest in the pathogenesis of hysteria and was the first to present acceptable differential-diagnostic criteria for separating hysteria from organic diseases, and coined the concept of "pithiatisme".

In 1896, at a meeting of the "Société de Biologie", Babiński, in a 26-line presentation, delivered the first report on the "phenomène des orteils", i.e., that while the normal reflex of the sole of the foot consists of a plantar reflex of the toes, an injury to the pyramidal tract will show up in an isolated dorsal flexion of the great toe—"Babinski's sign."

During World War I, Babiński had charge of many traumatic neurological cases at the Piti Hospitals.

He was professor of neurology at the University of Paris.New International Encyclopedia

Babiński wrote over 200 papers on nervous disorders. With Jules Froment he published "Hysteropithiatisme en Neurologie de Guerre" (1917), which was translated into English in 1918 by Sir H. Rolleston. Babiński published some of his works in Polish.

Babiński lived with his younger brother, Henri Babinski, a distinguished engineer who was also a famous cook and published as "Ali Baba" a classic cookbook.

A genius in neurology, Babiński died on December 13, 1932, the same year as two great Polish neurologists, Edward Flatau and Samuel Goldflam. In his last years he had suffered from Parkinson's disease.


Babiński lived to see his achievements in French neurology internationally acclaimed. He was honored by Wilno University, by the American Neurological Society, and by several other foreign societies.


Less well known is Babiński's collaborator, John Arne Fjeldjager, who introduced the Fjeldjager procedure for testing patients thought to be catatonic or suffering from stroke. The Fjeldjager procedure is done by pouring water down the patient's forehead and over his eyes to see whether he reflexly blinks. With a true catatonic state or stroke, the patient does not. This phenomenon is now known as "Neuman's syndrome." Most of the studies were conducted in a jail setting. The first patient found not actually to be in a genuine catatonic state was William Wallace Ward, who had simulated the condition for two years.

Associated eponyms

* "Babinski's sign": A pathological reflex where the great toe extends in presence of an injury to the pyramidal tract.
* "Anton-Babinski syndrome": A condition characterized by denial of blindness in lesions of the occipital lobe. Named with neurologist Gabriel Anton.
* "Babinski-Fröhlich syndrome" or "Adiposo-genital syndrome": Condition characterized by feminine obesity and sexual infantilism in case of pituitary tumours. Named with pharmacologist Alfred Fröhlich.
* "Babinski-Froment syndrome": Vasomotor and trophic disorders, diffuse amyotrophy and muscle contractions subsequently to traumatic tissue damage. Named with neurologist Jules Froment.
* "Babinski-Nageotte syndrome": Syndrome seen in unilateral bulbar lesions of the medullobulbar transitional region. Named with neurologist Jean Nageotte.
* "Babinski-Vaquez syndrome": Tabes dorsalis associated with cardiac and arterial pathology as late manifestation of syphilis. Named with hematologist Louis Henri Vaquez.
* "Babinski-Weil test": Test for demonstration of a laterodeviation in case of vestibular disorders.
* "Babinski-Jarkowski rule": For localization of a medullary lesion.

ee also

*List of Poles

External links

* [ Biography of Joseph Babinski] , from

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  • Babinski-Syndrom — Klassifikation nach ICD 10 G46.3* Hirnstammsyndrom …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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