ILAE History: The Onset

Budapest 1909

It is not easy to trace back how and why the ILAE was started. Apparently the first journal Epilepsia had been created, dedicated to "the study of the pathology, therapy, and the social and legal aspects of epilepsy and nervous disorders of the same class." The periodical (appendix IV) first appeared under the patronage of W. Bechterew, O. Binswanger, J. Hughlings Jackson, L. Luciani, H. Obersteiner and F. Raymond. A year later F. Déjérine replaced Raymond and for the fourth volume Hughlings Jackson is replaced by Sir William Gowers. Most of the early numbers of Epilepsia were published by a consortium consisting of Scheltema & Holkema (Amsterdam), Jacob Lund (Copenhagen), Baillière & Fils (Paris), Williams & Norgate (London), G.E. Stechert & Co (New York), J.A. Barth (Leipzig), and Nordiska Bokhandeln (Stockholm). J. Donath from Budapest and L.J.J. Muskens from Amsterdam were respectively Editor-in-Chief (Rédacteur-Gérant) and secretary of the Editorial Board (Secrétaire de la Rédaction) for all five volumes, until World War I put an end to this period. It is Donath and Muskens who took the initiative, together with two physicians not associated with the journal Epilepsia, i.e., J. van Deventer, like Muskens also from Amsterdam, and A. Marie from Villejuif near Paris, to form an International League Against Epilepsy. The event took place in Hotel Bristol, Rue Valeria No. 460 (Donau room), Budapest (Hungary), August 30, 1909 on the occasion of an International Congress of Medicine.

At the first official meeting of the new organization on September 2, 1909, under the chairmanship of A. Tamburini, the ILAE at once decided to employ the international periodical Epilepsia as its organ. It was further suggested that statistics of epileptics should be procured from the different countries. National committees were also appointed, i.e., Algiers, America, Austria, England, France, Germany and Italy.

"Epilepsia appeared quarterly from 1908 till 1915 in five volumes of four issues each, with 2,114 pages in all. There were different editors throughout the years, but the following doctors participated in the work through most of the years: H. Claude (Paris), J. Donath (Budapest), L.J.J. Muskens (Amsterdam), A. Turner (London), L. Bruns (Hanover), W. Spratling (Baltimore)."1

[NB: This citation where the dates for the first series of Epilepsia are given as 1908-1915 emphasizes the precedence of the journal with respect to the ILAE.]

There were also 10 to 14 editorial advisors (appendix IV). The contributions were written either in French, German or English. A paper was published in Italian only once. This was a paper by M. Zalla2 from Florence who presented his experiences with the use of Crotalin (Rattle snake poison) for the treatment of epilepsy. This therapy was first discussed in Epilepsia by Ralph H. Spangler3 from Philadelphia.

According to the editor of the 2nd series H.I. Schou4 in these early days
"Epilepsia contained a great number of original papers on epilepsy and its treatment and reviews of the works of others in the anatomical, surgical, biological, chemical, and clinical domains. Moreover, in a number of volumes, there was a 'Bibliographia Epilepsiae' collected for one year at a time and edited by F. Loeb."

The constitution of the ILAE was laid down in an English version of 12 paragraphs and a German version of 13 paragraphs, which were published in Epilepsia5 (appendix III).

A list of members comprising 45 persons and a list of national committees of 16 different countries (appendix II) can be found in the same issue.

Berlin 1910

On October 4, 1910, the second annual meeting of the ILAE was held in Berlin under the chairmanship of A. Tamburini. This meeting was held at the same place and about the same time as an International Congress on Psychiatry and Psychiatric Institutions (Kongress für Irrenfürsorge und Anstaltswesen). Lectures on professional subjects were delivered by Veith and Muskens.

Zurich 1912

The third annual meeting of the ILAE was held in Zurich, September 6 and 7, 1912 at the special centre for epilepsy under the chairmanship of Dr Weeks. One of the scientific contributions was a paper by the medical director of the centre, Dr A. Ulrich, about the importance of a low-salt diet for the patients treated with bromides.

London 1913

The fourth annual meeting of the ILAE was held in London, August 13, 1913 under the chairmanship of Dr Aldren Turner. The following points are taken from the minutes of the board meeting6:

It was decided to admit into the League two classes of members: the one class on payment of 25 frs. per annum to receive full privileges with a copy of Epilepsia; the other class on payment of 4 frs. to be designated associate members.

It was decided that the establishment of central bureaux for research work on epilepsy, under the charge of the national committees, was to be considered as to belong to the scope of these committees.

It was considered to hold the next meeting at Bern in September 1914, at about the same time as the International Congress for Neurology and Psychiatry.

The first interruption

Owing to the outbreak of the war in August 1914, the fifth annual meeting of the ILAE in Bern was not held. Furthermore, according to Dr L.J.J. Muskens in his overview of "The ILAE in War and Post-War Time: The proper finishing in 1915 of the fifth volume of Epilepsia met with financial and other difficulties, but was finally achieved."7 The World War I disruption was quite prolonged. Though the international work of the ILAE had been interrupted, the bureau of the secretary-general Dr Muskens received repeatedly requests for advice on how to deal with the vast increase in the incidence of epilepsy among the former combatants, particularly from those countries where until then no special steps had been taken to combat the disorder. These were, by the way, the same countries where the national committees had been quiescent during the first five active years of the league.

Muskens continues:

"It is needless to recall repeated steps taken by the bureau, in collaboration with the American colleagues, to revive the international campaign against epilepsy. Time was not ripe till the International Neurological Congress of Bern 1931, when the bureau succeeded in convoking a first meeting of the representatives of six or seven different countries. On that occasion our voice ceased to be a vox clamans in deserto, thanks especially to the contact with our Scandinavian colleagues among whom of late the interest in epilepsy has received fresh impulses."

It was decided during this meeting in Bern to try and reconstitute the ILAE at the London International Congress in 1935, which congress in honour of Dr J. Hughlings Jackson would have epilepsy as the principal subject for discussion; in other words, a great number of epileptologists might be expected. So indeed the ILAE started its second period in London, in 1935.