The historical origin of the term “meningioma” and the rise of nationalistic neurosurgery

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The historical origin of the meningioma nomenclature unravels interesting social and political aspects about the development of neurosurgery in the late 19th century. The meningioma terminology itself was the subject of nationalistic pride and coincided with the advancement in the rise of medicine in Continental Europe as a professional social enterprise. Progress in naming and understanding these types of tumor was most evident in the nations that successively assumed global leadership in medicine and biomedical science throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, that is, France, Germany, and the United States. In this vignette, the authors delineate the uniqueness of the term “meningioma” as it developed within the historical framework of Continental European concepts of tumor genesis, disease states, and neurosurgery as an emerging discipline culminating in Cushing's Meningiomas text.

During the intellectual apogee of the French Enlightenment, Antoine Louis published the first known scientific treatise on meningiomas. Like his father, Jean-Baptiste Louis, Antoine Louis was a renowned military surgeon whose accomplishments were honored with an admission to the Académie royale de chirurgie in 1749. His treatise, Sur les tumeurs fongueuses de la duremère, appeared in 1774. Following this era, growing economic depression affecting a frustrated bourgeoisie triggered a tumultuous revolutionary period that destroyed France's Ancien Régime and abolished its university and medical systems. The resulting anarchy was eventually quelled through legislation aiming to satisfy Napoleon's need for qualified military professionals, including physicians and surgeons. These laws laid the foundations for the subsequent flourishing of French medicine throughout the mid-19th century. Subsequent changes to the meningioma nomenclature were authored by intellectual giants of this postrevolutionary period, for example, by the Limogesborn pathologist Jean Cruveilhier known for the term “tumeurs cancéreuses de la duremère,” and the work of histopathologists, such as Hermann Lebert, who were influenced by Pasteur's germ theory and by Bernard's experimental medicine.

The final development of the meningioma nomenclature corresponded to the rise of American neurosurgery as a formal academic discipline. This historical period of growth is chronicled in Cushing's text Meningiomas, and it set the scientific stage for the modern developments in meningioma research and surgery that are conducted and employed today.

ABBREVIATIONSARC = Académie royale de chirurgie.

Article Information

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online January 22, 2016; DOI: 10.3171/2015.10.JNS15877.

Correspondence Raj K. Shrivastava, Department of Neurosurgery, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, 1468 Madison Ave., Annenberg 8-35, New York, NY 10029. email: raj.shrivastava@mountsinai.org.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.

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    Portrait of Antoine Louis (1723–1792). Public domain; courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

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    Photograph of Jean Cruveilhier (1791–1874). Public domain; courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

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    From Cruveilhier, Anatomie Pathologique Du Corps Humain: 8 Livraison Plate 2 (Cancerous Tumors of the Meninges). Public domain; courtesy of the University of Iowa Libraries. Figure is available in color online only.

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    From Cruveilhier, Anatomie Pathologique Du Corps Humain: 8 Livraison Plate 3 (Cancerous Tumors of the Meninges). Public domain; courtesy of the University of Iowa Libraries. Figure is available in color online only.

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    Portrait of Hermann Lebert (1813–1878). Public domain; courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

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    Photograph of Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow (1821–1902). Public domain; courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

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    Photograph of William Williams Keen (1837–1932) of Philadelphia. Public domain; courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

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    Photograph of Harvey Cushing (1869–1939). Public domain; courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

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