About ninety years ago, Augustin Morvan, a Breton physician, was consulted by a fisherman with a septic finger. Morvan incised it and noted that his surgical manipulations caused no pain: The patient did not even wince at the contact of the bistoury. This phenomenon appeared so curious that Morvan determined to investigate the sensibility of the affected hand; to his surprise, he discovered that the hand and a part of the forearm did not feel the prick of a pin. During the next thirty years he observed 6 other similar cases of painless infections of the hand, and these he reported in 1893 in the Gazette hebdomadaire de médecine et de chirurgie1 as examples of a new disease. He called this condition parésie analgésique des extrémités superieures.
Morvan's paper is interesting. He expressed the opinion that the source of this new disease must lie in the spinal cord, and