Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Who was the first to describe anorexia nervosa: Gull or Lasègue?

Walter Vandereyckena1 c1 and Ron Van Detha1

a1 University of Leuven, Belgium, and Leiden, The Netherlands


Leading articles or textbooks on anorexia nervosa generally give credit for its discovery to either the British physician William Withey Gull or to the French neuropsychiatrist Ernest Charles Lasègue. Although the major contributions of both men show a remarkable but independent coincidence around 1873, Gull is mostly given a slight priority because of a rather cryptic mention of an anorexia-like condition in a paper read in 1868. An analysis of the events, however, shows that the British physician from London does not really deserve this honour. For no clear-cut priority for either man can be established.


c1 Address for correspondence: Dr W Vandereycken, University Psychiatric Center, Leuvensesteenweg 517. B-3070 Kortenberg, Belgium.