THE DISCOVERY OF the Bell-Magendie Law, which states that the ventral spinal roots transmit motor impulses and the posterior roots sensory impulses, established a major landmark in the history of neuroscience. It led to further elucidation of brain function and served as a starting point for virtually all of electrophysiology. During the past two centuries, there has been an intense debate as to which of the two scientists deserves the credit for the discovery itself and the prominent claim to the discovery. Extensive literature exists in this regard, and the goal of the authors is not to dwell on it further but rather to summarize the arguments. The major objective of this work, however, is to elaborate on the two medicosocial issues that were brought into focus by the discovery of the Bell-Magendie Law, namely, the provision of adequate numbers of cadavers for the sound anatomic education of medical students, so that the despicable practice of “body-snatching” could be abolished, and the prevention of cruelty to the experimental animals used for biomedical research. Public opinion prevailing at the time of the postulation of the Bell-Magendie Law promoted the establishment of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and other similar societies were established worldwide. The authors summarize the current status of these two issues.
Department of Neurosurgery, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit Medical Center, Detroit, Michigan
Reprint requests: Setti S. Rengachary, M.D., Department of Neurosurgery, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit Medical Center, Detroit, MI 48201. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Received, September 7, 2007.
Accepted, April 18, 2008.