• Parkinson's disease;
  • Tremor;
  • Medical history;
  • 16th century;
  • 17th century;
  • 18th century


In his monograph An essay on the shaking palsy (1817), James Parkinson mentioned tremor and propulsion to be the most important signs of the disease that he was describing. In this article, we study aspects of the history of one of the signs that he mentioned, that is, tremor and see how the meaning of this term evolved since its description by Galen, particularly in the period from the 16th to the 18th centuries. We'll pay attention to the development of a distinction made between action tremor and rest tremor. Work by the following authors is covered: Pratensis and Forestus (16th century); Tulp, Van Beverwijck, and Sylvius (17th century); and Boerhaave and Van Swieten (18th century). Not all authors made the distinction, originally noticed by Galen, between action tremor and rest tremor. Parkinson tremor probably was observed but was classified among the tremors of the elderly. The meaning of palpitation changed through the ages and finally was applied only to pathologic heart and artery pulsations. Sylvius and Van Swieten were the only authors in this study who clearly distinguished between action tremor and rest tremor. They are discussed in Parkinson's monograph.