Lennox, William Gordon 1884 - 1960


(1884-1960), neurologist

William Gordon Lennox was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 1884. He was educated at Colorado College, before applying unsuccessfully to Boston University Divinity School in 1909. After this rejection, Lennox instead pursued a medical degree at Harvard Medical School. After qualifying in 1913, Lennox spent four years as a medical missionary at Union Medical College in Beijing, China where he first encountered cases of epilepsy. The condition would later come to dominate his career.

After returning from China, Lennox took up teaching and research positions at Harvard Medical School, where he remained until his retirement in 1958. While at Harvard, Lennox pioneered the use of electroencephalography (EEG, the measurement of the electrical activity of the brain) in the diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy alongside fellow neurologists and epileptologists Stanley Cobb (1887-1968), Erna Gibbs (1906-1987), and Frederic Gibbs (1903-1992). In his seminal text Epilepsy and Related Disorders (1960), published in the year of his death, Lennox argued that epilepsy was not a singular condition, but a constellation of neurological abnormalities, and outlined the EEG patterns for common seizure types to aid diagnosis.

Lennox was also active in promoting international awareness of epilepsy and fighting long-standing and pervasive stigma towards the condition, and was described as the ‘Father of the Fight Against Epilepsy’ for his activism. Lennox played a key role in the creation and organisation of the American Epilepsy Society, the National Epilepsy League, the Epilepsy Federation, the United Epilepsy Society, and the Epilepsy Information Centre. Between 1935 and 1953, Lennox served as President (later Honorary President) of the International League Against Epilepsy.

Lennox died in Boston, Massachusetts, on 22 July 1960.