Gordon Holmes

Sir Gordon Morgan Holmes (1876-1965)

Sir Gordon Morgan Holmes (1876-1965) was an Irish neurologist.

The works of Gordon Holmes are often cited as having a foundational influence on our understanding of the clinical symptoms and signs of cerebellar lesions

  • Born January 22, 1876, in Dillion House Castlebellingham, Ireland
  • Holmes was an excellent student despite his struggle with dyslexia
  • He graduated from his medical studies at Trinity College in Dublin in 1897 with an B.A.,Senior Moderator in Natural Science degree
  • He then worked as a ship’s surgeon on a ship sailing to New Zealand before returning home a year later where he participated in a foreign scientific internship at the Senckenberg Institute in Frankfurt-am-Mai (Germany)
  • In Germany he gained his knowledge in comparative anatomy and histology of the nervous system under the direction of Carl Weigert (1845–1904) and in neuroanatomy under Ludwig Edinger (1855-1918)
  • In 1903 Holmes returned to the British Isles and obtained his MD degree, working as a house physician and then a Resident Medical Officer at the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases and Queen Square in London which was one of the most important European neurological centres at the time
  • In 1906 he became the e director of clinical research
  • In 1909 he was appointed honorary physician to the National Hospital and served as a consulting physician to the Charing Cross Hospital and the Royal Ophthalmic Hospital (Moorfields Eye Hospital) 
  • He carried out intensive research in neuroanatomy neuropathology and neurophysiology
  • During World War I (WWI) Holmes became the consulting neurologist to the Royal Army Medical Corps in France and organised a hospital in France for treating head wounds with Percy Sargent (1873-1933)
  • Holme’s work during WWI led to him receiving the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) and the Order of St Michael and St George in class Companion (CMG).
  • 1922-1937 Holmes served as the editor-in-chief of the journal “Brain” and was cofounder of the Association of British neurologists with the first meeting held at his home in London on July 28th 1932
  • A year later in recognition of his achievements he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society
  • In 1935 he served a President of the International Congress of Neurology and again in 1936 and 1938
  • In 1951 he was knighted
  • Died in Farnham on 29th of December 1965

Scientific Achievements
  • Holmes was the first scientist to challenge the theory of the unitary function of the cerebellum and described cerebellar disorders through the following symptoms ataxia, asthenia, adiadochokinesia, and rebound
  • Worked on the identification of visual pathways alongside Henry Head (1861-1940) during WWI
  • In 1918, Holmes described six cases of a visual disorientation with optic ataxia and bilateral posterior parietal cortex lesions which were due to perforating gunshot injuries of the head known as Bálint-Holmes syndrome
  • Holmes together with Thomas Grainger Stewart (1877-1957) described and explained 40 cases of the rebound phenomenon in cerebellar disease known as the Stewart-Holmes manoeuvre to Stewart-Holmes test
  • Holmes also described the symptoms of inherited neu-rodegenerative spinocerebellar ataxia involving the olivarynucleus (Gordon-Holmes syndrome
  •  In 1931, Holme’s independent from Australian neurologist William John Adie (1886–1935), with whom he worked during his stay in France, described the partial iridoplegia known as Adie pupil or Holmes-Adie syndrome
Medical Eponyms
Holmes-Adie pupil (1931)

Holmes-Adie syndrome (aka Adie syndrome) affects the autonomic nervous system. Patients present with the pupil of one eye being larger and only slowly constricts in bright light (tonic pupil). There is also absence of deep tendon reflexes, usually the Achilles tendon.

Stewart-Holmes manoeuvre

Stewart-Holmes manoeuvre (aka rebound phenomenon) is a reflex that occurs when a patient attempts to move a limb against resistance that has suddenly been removed. In healthy individuals the limb will move a short distance and then back to the antagonistic muscles will move the arms back to the original position An exaggerated response is seen in spasticity and an absent response seen in cerebellar disease where there is a failure of the antagonistic muscles to contract.

Gordon-Holmes syndrome

Gordon-Holmes syndrome is an autosomal recessive adult-onset neurodegenerative disorder characterised by progressive cognitive decline, dementia and variable movement disorders such as ataxia and chorea.

Bálint-Holmes syndrome

Bálint-Holmes syndrome a rare and disabling condition usually seen in bilateral parietal lobe lesions and is a triad of optic ataxia, oculomotor apraxia and simultagnosia.

Head-Holmes syndrome (1911)

Sensory changes produced by lesions of the cerebral cortex and other parts of the brain.

Key medical Contributions

barognosis The ability to discriminate between weights using the cutaneous, muscle, tendon, and joint senses. Disturbance of the faculty was investigated by Gordon Holmes after 1910, who determined that subjects with unilateral cerebellar disease tend to overestimate weights placed in the ataxic hand. Parietal lesions may also be responsible.

Major Publications



Eponymous terms


the person behind the name

Dr Ege Eroglu Profile picture LITFL 2

MD (The University of Notre Dame, Australia). Doctor at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Perth, Western Australia. Interested in critical care medicine, paediatrics, ENT and ophthalmology.

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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