Program for the 25th meeting of the ISHN (virtual) on Friday July 9th

Please note that the times are in Central European Summer Time. We start at 3 pm Amsterdam/Paris; that is 2 pm in London and 9 am in New York).

15.00 – 15.45 Alastair Compston: Thomas Willis: neurology, the doctrine of the nerves

15.45 – 16.30 Jörg Jewanski (with Sean A. Day): From obscure feeling (1772) to synesthesia (1892): The rediscovery of the early history of research on synesthesia.

16.30 – 16.45 break

16.45 – 17.30 Tilli Tansey: Henry Dale: physiologist, pharmacologist or neuroscientist?

17.30 – 18.15 Fernando Vidal: Brainfilms and Us

18.15 – 19.00 Donald Stein: A personal perspective on the history of treatments and recovery from brain injuries

19.00 – 20.30 break

20.30 – 21.15 Douglas Lanska: Prusiner and the prion

21.15 – 22.00 Informal part of the program including Wendy Finger’s presentation of 25 years of ISHN followed by toast and chatting.

Registration is free; send an email to Peter J. Koehler ( or Manon Auffret ( and you will receive the registration link.

Information on speakers

Alastair Compston is professor emeritus of neurology in the University of Cambridge where his research focused on demyelinating disease. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Medical Sciences; and foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences of Germany and the National Academy of Medicine of the USA. As editor of Brain (2003–2013), he promoted the journal as a repository of knowledge set in its historical context. Since retiring in 2015, he has written: Simples and rarities suitable and honourable to the College (2018), an account of the Dorchester library and one of ten books marking the 500th anniversary of the Royal College of Physicians of London (2018); Queen Square. A history of the National Hospital and its Institute (with Simon Shorvon); and ‘All manner of ingenuity and industry’: a bio-bibliography of Dr Thomas Willis 1621 – 1675 (July 2021).

 Jörg Jewanski is a musicologist with special focus on the interrelations between the arts. From 2018 until 2020, he was a Post-doc grant holder from the FWF at the University of Vienna for Music and synaesthesia. He researches the history of synaesthesia (color hearing) and has published articles on this subject, including articles in the Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. Jewanski is a publisher of ten books about these issues. He teaches music history and musicology at the Musikhochschule of the University of Münster, Germany.

Sean A. Day holds a PhD in Linguistics with BA and MA degrees in Anthropology He is a congenital synaesthete, who sees coloured, textured objects before him when he hears musical instruments, tastes flavours, or smells odours. He is current President of the International Association of Synaesthetes, Artists, and Scientists, and the creator and operator of The Synesthesia List, an international forum for synaesthetes and researchers.

Tilli Tansey is Emeritus Professor of History of Medicine and Pharmacology at the William Harvey Research Institute of Barts & The London School of Medicine, and Honorary Professor in Neuroscience of Physiology and Pharmacology at UCL. With a PhD in neuroscience she worked for some years in medical research, before taking a second PhD in medical history. She was appointed to the academic staff of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine in 1990 specializing in the history of modern medical sciences, especially physiology and pharmacology, and developing the famous ‘Witness Seminar’ approach to modern medicine, of which she co-edited over seventy volumes. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Fernando Vidal is ICREA (Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies) Research Professor at the Humanities faculty of the University of Rovira I Virgili (Tarragona, Spain). He received a BA from Harvard University, graduate degrees in psychology and the history and philosophy of science from the Universities of Geneva and Paris, and a Habilitation from the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. He works on the history of the human sciences and the mind/brain sciences from the Renaissance to the present, and has recently turned toward medical anthropology and phenomenology. He worked at several institutes in the world (including the Berlin Max Planck Institute for the History of Science). He is, most recently, co-author of Being Brains: Making the Cerebral Subject and The Sciences of the Soul: the Early Modern Origins of Psychology.

Donald Stein has a BS and MS degree in experimental psychology from the University of Michigan and a PhD in physiological psychology from the University of Oregon (1965). He has studied traumatic brain injury (TBI) in experimental animals and humans for more than five decades. Working at the Emory University School of Medicine, he is still involved in the research of the effects of progesterone on TBI. With his group he published over 350 articles on TBI, stroke and malignant brain tumors.

Douglas Lanska is a neurologist and teaches at Institute of Social Science, I.M. Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University, as well as at the School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is chair of the History and Archives Committee of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). He has published over two hundred articles, many of which are on the history of the neurosciences. He was president of the ISHN and organized the meeting Cleveland, Ohio in 2018. He is leader of the Oral History Program of the AAN, in which function he interviewed Stanley Prusiner.