Feud and fable: the Sherrington-Horsley polemic and the delayed publication.

Joel A. Vilensky, James L. Stone, Sid Gilman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


In the February and March 1894 pages of The Lancet and in private letters, Charles Sherrington and Victor Horsley exchanged angry accusations pertaining to primacy of research on the course of the pyramidal fiber tract as determined from studies in monkeys. The polemics appear not to have ended in a manner satisfactory to either one. Moreover, the dispute allegedly led to a remarkable delay in publication of one of Sherrington's major contributions, which pertained to the localization of the motor cortex in apes that was published in 1917. Here we examine the argument in detail including the comments of an intermediary, Professor Rubert Boyce. We also examine the evidence for the supposed delay in publication, and conclude that the account of the delay originated in John Fulton's 1952 obituary of Sherrington, and is not true. We suggest it has become a fable that should no longer be repeated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)368-375
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the history of the neurosciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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