Finding Connections: James Parkinson, Turtles, and Hope

I have been fascinated by turtles since my middle school years, and found my passion for working with people with Parkinson’s before my middle-aged years.  I recently discovered that these are two things I have in common with James Parkinson, the man for whom Parkinson’s is named.  James Parkinson published the first description of what we now call Parkinson’s disease in 1817, but prior to that he published three books regarding the study of fossils.  Among these fossils were turtles; in fact, there is an an extinct sea turtle, Puppigerus parkinsonii, named for James Parkinson.  (FYI, if you are looking for your next travel destination, the fossilized shell of Puppigerus parkinsonii is on display at the Teylers Museum in The Netherlands.) 

I had no idea that there would be any sort of link between Parkinson and turtles.  I also had no idea as a middle schooler that my passion for turtles would lead me to study neural control of movement in turtles, which would lead me to studies of movement in people, which would lead me to my passion for working with people with Parkinson’s.  For me, the route to Parkinson’s was indirect, but I could not imagine doing anything else, and I am grateful for the journey that brought me here. 

Whatever your route to the Parkinson’s community, I am grateful that you are here reading this blog.  I hope that you, like me, are inspired by our community and the knowledge that there are so many of us working in so many different ways to address Parkinson’s.  Those living with Parkinson’s are continually discovering what works for them and sharing this knowledge with others.  Those who care about people with Parkinson’s are working to understand various pieces of the Parkinsons’s puzzle, and there are many.  Together, we are finding connections that we would never have predicted.  With each new connection, the picture becomes a bit clearer and we are guided in new directions.  It is these new connections and new directions that give me hope. 

Speaking of hope, I hope to see you at WPC 2019!  There is no better place than WPC to make new connections, be guided in new directions, and achieve a renewed sense of hope.


Gammon M. Earhart, PT, PhD presented at the Third World Parkinson Congress in Montreal, Canada and the Fourth World Parkinson Congress in Portland, Oregon. She currently serves as Director of the Program in Physical Therapy and Professor of Physical Therapy, Neurology, and Neuroscience at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Ideas and opinions expressed in this post reflect that of the author(s) solely. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of the World Parkinson Coalition®