Notes on the origins of Epilepsia and the International League Against Epilepsy


Address correspondence to Simon D. Shorvon, UCL Institute of Neurology, University College London, Box 5, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, United Kingdom. E-mail:


The recent discovery of archival material has shed interesting light on the origins of Epilepsia and also the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE). The idea of an international journal devoted to epilepsy seems first to have arisen from talks between Dr. L. J. J. Muskens and Dr. W. Aldren Turner in 1905. A protracted series of subsequent letters between Muskens and a Haarlem publisher show how the idea slowly took shape. The committee of patronage, editorial board, and editorial assistants was probably first approached at the First International Congress of Psychiatry, Neurology, Psychology, and Nursing of the Insane, held in Amsterdam in 1907. At this meeting, the concept of an international organization to fight epilepsy (to become the ILAE) was also first proposed in public, again by Muskens. The concept of the ILAE was clearly modeled on another international organization—the International Commission for the Study of the Causes of Mental Diseases and Their Prophylaxis. This Commission had been first publicly proposed in 1906 by Ludwig Frank, at the Second International Congress for the Care and Treatment of the Insane. The proposed Commission and ILAE shared many features, aims, and personnel. Despite an auspicious start, the International Commission was prevented by personal and political differences from ever actually coming into being. However, the first issue of Epilepsia appeared in March 1909 and the ILAE was inaugurated in August 1909; and both have flourished and celebrate their centenaries this year.