Robert Bartholow

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Robert Bartholow
Roberts Bartholow.jpg
Robert Bartholow
Born (1831-11-28)November 28, 1831
New Windsor, Maryland
Died May 10, 1904(1904-05-10) (aged 72)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality United States
Institutions Medical College of Ohio
Alma mater University of Maryland
Known for Faradic electric currents to the exposed dura mater of a patient

Robert Bartholow or Roberts Bartholow (November 28, 1831 – May 10, 1904) was an American physician from New Windsor, Maryland. He earned his degree in medicine from the University of Maryland in 1852. From 1855 to 1864 he was a surgeon in the U.S. Army. From 1864 to 1879 he was a professor at the Medical College of Ohio in Cincinnati. Afterwards he was a professor at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.


He is known for his application of Faradic electric currents to the exposed dura of a patient. In 1874, Bartholow was presented with a 30-year-old patient named Mary Rafferty who had a 2-inch-diameter (51 mm) hole in her skull caused by a cancerous ulcer. Inspired by the localized testing of animals' brains done by neurologist David Ferrier, Bartholow applied a small electric current to different sections of Ms. Rafferty's exposed brain and noticed that it caused movements in various parts of her body. The low electric current he applied to the brain did not seem to cause her any pain. However, when Bartholow applied a larger amount of current, Mary Rafferty became distressed, experienced convulsions and went into a coma. She revived from the coma three days later, but the following day she had a major seizure and died.

He described the experiment as follows:

When the needle entered the brain substance, she complained of acute pain in the neck. In order to develop more decided reactions, the strength of the current was increased ... her countenance exhibited great distress, and she began to cry. Very soon, the left hand was extended as if in the act of taking hold of some object in front of her; the arm presently was agitated with clonic spasm; her eyes became fixed, with pupils widely dilated; lips were blue, and she frothed at the mouth; her breathing became stertorous; she lost consciousness and was violently convulsed on the left side. The convulsion lasted five minutes, and was succeeded by a coma. She returned to consciousness in twenty minutes from the beginning of the attack, and complained of some weakness and vertigo.

— Dr. Bartholow's research report

Although Bartholow was criticized for his experimentation by the American Medical Association, he did not suffer professionally; in 1893 he attained the title of Professor Emeritus at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

He died at his home in Philadelphia in 1904.[1]


See also[edit]


  1. ^