Five early accounts of phantom limb in context: Paré Descartes, Lemos, Bell, and Mitchell

Stanley Finger, Meredith P. Hustwit, Björn Meyerson, W. Jeffrey Elias, James T. Goodrich, Christopher B.T. Adams, Jacques H. Philippon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


PHANTOM LIMB WAS described long before American physician and surgeon Silas Weir Mitchell coined the term and drew attention to the disorder in the 1860s. The early descriptions of Ambroise Paré, René Descartes, Aaron Lemos, Charles Bell, and then Mitchell of this strange consequence of amputation are presented in historical and cultural context. These five men described phantom limbs for various reasons. They also differed when it came to explaining and dealing with these illusory sensations. The rich history of phantom limbs can begin to be appreciated by viewing the contributions of these individuals in perspective and by realizing that their writings represent only a fraction of what was published about phantom limbs more than 130 years ago.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)675-686
Number of pages12
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Aaron Lemos
  • Ambroise Paré
  • Amputation
  • Charles Bell
  • Phantom limb
  • René Descartes
  • Silas Weir Mitchell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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