Treading a Fine Line
Although he did not enter in medical textbooks as the father of modern neurology (this title formally belongs to Jean-Martin Charcot) Duchenne de Boulogne certainly did advance the field of neurology greatly. Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne (1806 – 1875) explained the conductivity of neural pathways, revealed the effects of lesions on these structures and implemented many diagnostic innovations including deep tissue biopsy, nerve conduction tests, and many more. His major contribution to the field of medicine is in the establishing of electrotherapy – expanding on the work of Mr. Galvani. Besides being a scientist, Duchenne was also a medically trained photographer. He was not the first doctor to use photograhy in purposes of study, but Duchenne was one of the first who managed to establish a bridge from medicine to the fine arts. He straddled a bizzare line between science and art, changing both their histories greatly.
Duchenne’s Album de photographies pathologiques is the first neurology textbook illustrated with photographs. These were not simple, early visualization of certain bodily phenomena that were used for study purposes. His images are well composed and abide by all principles of photography. Even today, more than a hundered and fifty years later, these evoke nothing less than amazement.
Duchanne’s work on physiology of emotion was seminal to Darwin’s later work. Since emotion expresions are provoked by certain combination of muscules, Duchenne used, two or four, electrodes to stimulate the muscles. He used to complain about the early photographic technique’s inability to capture the movement he induced with electrical current.