The origins of scientific cinematography and early medical applications

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Abstract

Objective:

To examine the neurologic cinematographic contributions of Gheorghe Marinescu.

Background:

Near the end of the 19th century, cinematography developed and was immediately recognized as a new technique applicable to medical documentation. After studying with several prominent European neurologists and deeply influenced by Jean-Martin Charcot, Marinescu returned to Bucharest in 1897 and applied moving picture techniques to the study of neurologic patients.

Methods:

The Romanian State Archives were researched for original Marinescu films, and related publications were translated from Romanian and French.

Results:

Between 1899 and 1902, Marinescu perfected the use of cinematography as a research method in neurosciences and published five articles based on cinematographic documents. He focused his studies particularly on organic gait disorders, locomotor ataxia, and hysteria. He adapted Charcot’s method of lining up several patients with the same disorder and showing them together to permit appreciation of archetypes and formes frustes. He decomposed the moving pictures into sequential tracings for publication. He documented treatment results with cases filmed before and after therapy. Processed and digitized excerpts of these films accompany this manuscript.

Conclusions:

Marinescu’s cinematographic studies led to several original contributions in clinical neurology. Remaining film archives include examples of many neurologic diseases, his examination techniques, and the working medical environment of the young founder of the Romanian school of neurology.

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