Ejner Sylvest

Ejner Oluf Sørensen Sylvest (1880 – 1972)

Ejner Oluf Sørensen Sylvest (1880 – 1972) was a Danish general practitioner.

Described a myositis epidemic likely secondary to Coxsackie B virus in 23 fisherman in Melsted and Gudhjem whilst taking a summer vacation on Bornholm Island, Denamrk

Despite myriad Norweigan, Icelandic and American literature as well as locally recorded eponymous affiliations (even in Denmark…) the name attributed by Sylvest in his 1933 thesis dissertation has stuck and ‘Pleurodynia epidemica’ is recognized as Bornholm disease.


  • Born 11 November 1880, Hillerød
  • 1907 – graduated MD. Københavns Universitet
  • 1911-13 – surgeon in the army
  • 1926 – general practitioner
  • 1930 – monograph on epidemic pleurodynia in 23 fishermen on Bornholm island
  • 1933 – thesis publication applying the Danish denomination as ‘The Bornholm disease
  • 1939 – president, Det Medicinske Selskab i København [The Medical Society of Copenhagen]
  • 1941 – co-editor of ‘Huslægen om Sundhed og Sygdom I–III‘.
  • Died 28 June 1972

Medical Eponyms

Bornholm disease (1930)

Acute, transient viral myositis associated with Coxsackie B. Viral myositis involving the intercostal and abdominal muscles characterized by fever and sharp, spasmodic pain in the chest wall or abdomen.


Many prior description of Epidemic pleurodynia/Myositis epidemica…but as with many eponyms, the original descriptions were published in local language journals which never made it mainstream until the eponymous affiliate popularized the disease/syndrome.

1930 – Sylvest, whilst holidaying on Bornholm Island, Denmark witnessed and described the disease in 23 fisherman in Melsted and Gudhjem. As far as he was aware, the disease had been described in Norway by Daae…had no Danish name. He therefore proposed the Danish denomination as ‘The Bornholm disease‘.

Major Publications

  • Sylvest E. En Bornholmsk Epidemi. Myositis epidemica [A Bornholm epidemic. myositis epidemica], Ugeskr. Lag., 1930, 92, 798-801.
  • Sylvest E. Den Bornholmske Syge. Myalgia epidemica. [Bornholm disease-Myalgia epidemica], Doctoral thesis, Copenhagen, 1933.
  • Sylvest E. Epidemic myalgia. Bulletin mensuel de l’Office international d’hygiene publique. 1932;24:1431.
  • Sylvest E. Epidemic Myalgia, Bornholm Disease. translated by H. Andersen. London: Oxford University Press. 1934
  • Sylvest E. Epidemic Myalgia: Bornholm Disease. JAMA. 1934;103(21):1650. 


  • Danish biographical research and portrait: Ejner Sylvest. Flemming and Agnes Voss – Hørsholm, Denmark (Personal communication)
  • Snorrason ESH. Ejner Sylvest in: Danish Biographical Lexicon, 3rd edition, Gyldendal 1979-84.
  • Genner J. The Medical Society of Copenhagen 1772-1972. Acta Hist Sci Nat Med. 1972;27:1-345.[PMID 4196177]
  • Pickles WN. Bornholm Disease. The Practitioner Vol.174,no.1039-1044(jan-june)1955. pp85-86
  • Findlay GM, Howard EM. Coxsackie Viruses and Bornholm Disease. Br Med J. 1950 May 27; 1(4664): 1233–1236. [PMC2038096]
  • Ord AFT. Bornholm Disease. Br Med J. 1948 Nov 20; 2(4585): 916. [PMC2092091]
  • Jamieson WM, Prinsley DM. Bornholm Disease in the Tropics. Br Med J. 1947 Jul 12; 2(4514): 47–50. [PMC2055212]

eponymictionary CTA


the person behind the name

Emergency physician MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM with a passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and informatics. Asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | vocortex |

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