Jacob Da Costa

Jacob Mendez Da Costa (1833 – 1900)

Jacob Mendez Da Costa (1833-1900) was an American physician.

Global eclectic traveler, fluent in German and French and able to read Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Dutch.

Eponymously affiliated with Da Costa Syndrome (1871)

  • Born February 7, 1833 St. Thomas, West Indies (Danish colony)
  • 1837 – traveled with family for education in Europe (Dresden gymnasium)
  • 1845-1852 Studied medicine at Jefferson Medical College, USA
  • 1852 – Returned to Europe working in Paris with Armand Trousseau (1801-1867), then on to work in Prague and Vienna
  • 1853-1861 Physician to the dispensary of Moyamensing House of Industry, but struggled in private practice and preferred to teach medical students. Extensive teaching resulted in his very popular textbook ‘Medical Diagnosis‘ in 1864 (running to nine editions).
  • 1861-1865 Acting Assistant Surgeon, Military Hospital in Philadelphia
  • 1865 – Visiting Physician to the Pennsylvania Hospital
  • 1866 – Chairman of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College
  • 1872 – Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine, Jefferson Medical College
  • Died on September 12, 1900

A teachers work does not die with him. It lives long after and may give great results.

Valedictory address, 1874.

Medical Eponyms
Da Costa Syndrome (1871)

Symptom-complex characterized by palpitation, dyspnea, precordial pain, fatigue, exaggerated emotional responses with increased cardiac awareness, and occasionally, systolic hypertension.

Also known as neurocirculatory asthenia, Da Costa Syndrome is a symptom-complex characterised by dyspnoea, palpitations, chest discomfort, fatigue and exaggerated emotional responses with increased cardiac awareness.

1871 – Da Costa defined as “irritable heart syndrome,” in cases from the American Civil War. He found the disorder, was not confined to the infantry but affected the cavalry and artillery so the packs were unlikely to be to blame. Although this was widely regarded as a disorder suffered by soldiers in wartime, Da Costa made the important observation that the same cluster of symptoms could also be seen in civilians.

Leuchonychia striata (1877)

Da Costa described transverse white bands the full width of the finger nail appearing after a relapse of typhoid fever. Coloured illustration of a hand the nails of which are traversed with several white bands, each corresponding to a relapse of the typhoid from which the patient had suffered.

Systemic illness variant of Mees lines

Da Costa leuchonychia striata
Da Costa 1877

Major Publications



Eponymous terms


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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