The pathological body, serial photography and early cinema
Organização:  CFCUL
Ciências ULisboa, Building C6
12 / 07 / 2023

Serial photography of human movement, first obtained by Etienne-Jules Marey in France and Eadweard Muybridge in the United States, was of key importance for the invention of cinema as well as providing essential data on the physiology of the human body. In 1888, the neurologist Francis Dercum with the collaboration of Muybridge, did some quantification on the abnormal gait of his patients based on serial photographs (Dercum).  Similar methodology was used by Gheorghe Marinescu in Romania with the cinematographer: the frames of his films were transformed into line drawings for the analysis of the decomposed movements (Marinescu,1900). In 1913 the neurologist Egas Moniz, Professor at the Faculty of Medicine in Lisbon, produced a film in order to measure time between pathological movements in a patient with the neurological disease myoclonia (Moniz,1913). Both serial photography and cinema were used to segment and quantify pathological movements in neurological diseases.
In this paper we will examine medical cases in the period nineteenth-early twenty centuries and particularly the role played by Egas Moniz and his collaborators in improving knowledge on neurological pathologies using the then new image techniques.


Dercum FX. The walk and some of its phases in disease. Transactions of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia 1888; 10: 308-338. 
Marinescu,G. Un cas d’hémiplégie hystérique guéri par la suggestion hypnotique et étudié à l’aide du cinématographe. Nouvelle iconographie de la Salpêtrière 1900;14:176–183.
Moniz, E. Myoclonies essentiels. Nouvelle iconographie de la Salpêtrière 1913;26:85-117.
Jardim, Maria Estela, Jardim, Nádia Vera. A cultura visual médica no virar do século XIX: da cronofotografia aos primórdios do cinema. Anais do Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical, 2019; 17: 21-24. DOI:

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