James Parkinson (April 11, 1755 – December 21, 1824) was an English apothecary surgeon, geologist, paleontologist, and political activist.
He is most famous for his 1817 work, An Essay on the Shaking Palsy in which he was the first to describe “paralysis agitans”, a condition that would later be renamed Parkinson’s disease by Jean-Martin Charcot.
Parkinson was the first person to systematically describe six individuals with symptoms of the disease that bears his name. He did not formally examine these patients but observed them on daily walks, and in some cases obtained from them their disease-symptom histories by simple inquiry. It was Jean Martin Charcot who coined the term “Parkinson’s disease” over 60 years later.
Parkinson was also interested in improving the general health and well-being of the population. He wrote several medical doctrines that exposed a similar zeal for the health and welfare of the people that was expressed by his political activism. He was a crusader for legal protection for the mentally ill, as well as their doctors and families.
In 1812 Parkinson assisted his son with the first described case of appendicitis in English, and the first instance in which perforation was shown to be the cause of death.