Instruction in neurology began at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1875, when Edward Seguin joined the faculty as the Clinical Professor of Diseases of the Mind and Nervous System. Moses Allen Starr succeeded him in 1888, and led the department until 1915, when he was in turn succeeded by Frederick Tilney. When both the medical school and the Neurological Institute moved to Washington Heights to join the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in 1929, the chairman of the Neurological Institute became chair of the Department of Neurology, combining the clinical and educational facets of the organizations.
The Neurological Institute of New York, originally located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, was established in 1909 as the first specialty hospital in the United States devoted entirely to the study and treatment of disorders of the nervous system. In 1925 the Institute affiliated with Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University and became part of the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, now known as the Columbia University Medical Center. The Neurological Institute was merged into Presbyterian Hospital in 1943 but the Department of Neurology is still known as the Neurological Institute, and the terms Department of Neurology and Neurological Institute are used interchangeably.
The department is dedicated to the study and treatment of illnesses of the brain and nervous system. Divisions include Pediatric Neurology, Neuropathology, and Neuroradiology. Within Neurology, there are sections for Aging and Dementia, Clinical Neurophysiology, Epilepsy, General Neurology, Movement Disorders, Multiple Sclerosis and Neuroimmunology, Neurointensive Care, Neuromuscular Diseases, Neuro-oncology, Pediatric Neurology, and Stroke.
The Neurological Institute celebrated its 100th anniversary in September 2009. For more information about the history of the department, please visit their webpage.
The bulk of the correspondence files are from the administration of Lewis P. Rowland, chair of the Department of Neurology from 1973-1998. Rowland was trained in biochemistry and is best known for research in neuromuscular diseases and age-related neurodegenerative diseases, especially Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). He received both his B.S. and M.D. degrees from Yale, was a neurology resident at Columbia University from 1950-1953, and then departed briefly to serve at the National Institutes of Health and Montefiore Hospital.
Rowland returned to Columbia as a research fellow in 1958, and in 1961 he became co-director of the Clinical Research Center at the Neurological Institute. In 1967 he became the chairman of the Department of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, but in 1973 he returned to Columbia again, to take on the role of chairman of Department of Neurology.
The events of Rowland’s administration included the introduction of PET and CAT imaging capabilities, the ongoing development of a residence training program, and a series of renovations and expansions of both the curriculum and the physical plant of the Neurological Institute. In addition to his administrative duties, Rowland also maintained an active teaching and clinical schedule.
Rowland relinquished the chairmanship to Tim Pedley in 1998, but continued to serve as Co-Director of the H. Houston Merritt Clinical Research Center for Muscular Dystrophy and Related Diseases and Director of the Eleanor and Lou Gehrig MDA/ALS Center until 1999, and as of this writing (March 2012) is still teaching.
In addition to his academic achievements, Rowland has written many papers on ALS and edited two books on that disease. He was the Editor-in Chief of Neurology, 1977-1987, and has been a member of the editorial boards of other journals, including the New England Journal of Medicine, Medical Letter and the Journal of Neurological Sciences.
From 2000 to the end of 2009, he was the chief editor of the American Academy of Neurology’s Neurology Today. He is currently the editor of Merritt's Textbook of Neurology, Current Neurologic Drugs, and Clinical Cases in Neurology. Rowland has been President of the American Neurological Association (1980-81), President of the American Academy of Neurology (1989-91), and Chairman of the Academy's Education and Research Foundation.
He is currently President of the Parkinson's Disease Foundation and a member of the Institute of Medicine.