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Ernest Spiegel papers

Identifier: MSS 2/251

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of eleven series. The bulk of the correspondence comprises letters of both professional and personal natures from 1925 to 1984. A substantial portion of the collection consists of Spiegels' research files pertaining to stereographic procedures, Parkinsons' disease, and other areas of neurological investigation. The research files contain correspondence, reports, experimental data summaries, and bibliographic materials collected during Spiegel's tenure at Temple and later at the National Parkinson Foundation in Miami.

Series I: Biographical Information spans the years 1895 to 1985 and contains biographical sketches, vitae, lists of publications, photographs, and summative articles about Spiegel prepared by his medical colleagues for various commemorative occasions. Some items of interest include the typescript list of Spiegel’s publications and the introductory biographical essay by Henry T. Wycis.

Series II: Family Papers, spanning 1893 to 1985, consists of correspondence and ephemera concerning Spiegel’s parents, Dr. Ignaz Spiegel and Elise Fuchs Spiegel, and the family’s life in Austria up through Ernest’s marriage to Simona (Mona) Adolf in 1925 and the couples’ subsequent immigration to the United States in the late 1920s. Most of these materials are in German.

Series III: General Correspondence supplies a chronological account of Spiegel’s career from 1925 to 1984 as a medical assistant in Austria and a researcher and teacher in the United States. The letters are not extensive and there exist many gaps in the years represented. Most letters concern Spiegel’s research and publishing activities, as well as those of other neurologists. Some letters are of a more personal nature and include messages from family members and colleagues in Europe and the States which discuss matters such as health, travel, and reminiscences.

Series IV: Research Files make up the majority of the collection and cover the years from approximately 1930 to 1982. The files are organized into broad topics that represent major areas of Spiegel’s work. Each sub-series contains a variety of materials including correspondence, research data, drafts of articles, reprints, photographs, pamphlets, and reports. Topics represented include stereoencephalotomy, Parkinson’s disease and L-Dopa, pain, the labyrinth, and patient case records. Please be aware that access to the patient case records found in boxes 11, 12, and 12A is restricted.

Researchers should be aware that Spiegel’s early research during the 1930 to 1935 is not wellrepresented. Material regarding Spiegel’s work in developing stereoencephalotomy is represented in Box 4 and illustrates his role in developing the stereotactic technique, his collaboration with neurosurgeon Henry T. Wycis, and his attempts to implement and evaluate new applications for this method. Files concerning Spiegel’s research on Parkinson’s disease is particularly rich and includes drafts of articles, research data, and correspondence concerning Spiegel’s work on L-Dopa. Patient case records include correspondence with referring physicians, case histories, records of medical examinations and diagnostic tests, and evaluations of treatments used.

Series V: Monographs contains material dating from 1932 to 1982 that pertain to several of Spiegel’s longer research monographs. The files also contain an outline and correspondence regarding the volume “Experimental Pathophysiology of the Nervous System,” which Spiegel edited. The bulk of the materials concern Spiegel’s last book, Guided Brain Operations, published by S. Karger in 1982. These files include copy-edited typescripts, page proofs, and illustrations.

Series V also holds approximately 40 lantern slides which are thought to relate to Spiegel’s work on the vestibular and labyrinth.

Series VI: Financial Records documents the Spiegels’ financial picture from 1936 to 1980. Correspondence represents routine exchanges between the Spiegels and insurance brokers, bankers, and real estate agents who managed their rental properties. Also included are receipts, tax statements, and bills for professional expenses such as laboratory materials. Finally, there are receipts documenting the Spiegels’ contributions to charitable organizations and Jewish charities.

Series VII: Publications is a collection of printed materials of works by Ernest Spiegel and Mona Spiegel-Adolf as well as a core library of offprints on topics in which Spiegel was particularly interested. A substantial number of these pieces are signed by the authors and some bear handwritten personal greeting.

Series VIII: International Society for Research in Stereoencephalotomy and Other Professional Organizations is a small but significant lot of material which constitutes an archives for the International Society for Research in Stereoencephalotomy (ISRIS). Spiegel helped found the organization in 1961 and was its first president. Temple colleague Henry T. Wycis served as secretary0treasurere; both Spiegel and Wycis participated in the founding of an American branch of ISRIS. It consists largely of correspondence concerning the choice of topics and speakers for the upcoming symposia, arrangements for the symposia, and the publication of conference proceedings. Series VII also contains a few programs, directories, and membership lists from the American Encephalographic Society, American Academy of Neurology, American Neurological Association, and the International Society for Electrosleep and Electroanaesthesia.

Series IX: Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry, 1959 to 1970, contains Spiegel’s files for the latter part of his editorship of this annual review volume which he founded in 1946. The bulk of the material is correspondence from 1964 to 1974 consisting of about 200 items, most of them brief exchanges with authors of the reviews featured in the sections of the journal. Of note is a series of letters between Spiegel and his publisher, Grune & Stratton, Inc., Of New York, addressing the financial pressures involved in producing this journal for both Spiegel Grune.

Series X: Confinia Neurologica spans from 1962 to 1974 and contains Spiegel’s editorial files for this journal, which he established in 1938 at the suggestion of Dr. Heinz Karger in Basel, Switzerland, at the headquarters of the S. Karger publishing firm. Information about the first twenty years of the journal could not be obtained. The records in this collection include Spiegel’s editorial queries of a substantive nature. The correspondence refer to submissions, the activities of the International Society for Research in Stereoencephalotomy during the 1960s, and to the American branch of the organization founded at the end of the 1960s. The files also include a run of exchanges with publisher Thomas Karger concerning financial and editorial matters.

Series XI: Personal Memorabilia includes a variety of materials, such as appointment books, awards, plaques, and personal copies of religious works. The materials in this series date from the 1920s to 1968.


  • 1895


Conditions Governing Access

The patient records held in Series IV: Research files (boxes 11 and 12) may be restricted because they contain PHI (protected health information). While the Library is not a covered entity under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and therefore not subject to its regulations, the Library's policy reflects the principles of HIPAA’s Privacy Rule.

Under certain conditions, the Library may authorize access to archival and manuscript materials that contain health information of individuals. Access will be granted to qualified persons doing historical and other research, using statistical or quantitative methods, or methods ensuring that no individual shall be able to be identified from the results of the research.

For more information, please see the full policy regarding PHI at

If you wish to access these materials, please contact the Librarian or Archivist of the College.

Biographical / Historical

Ernest A. Spiegel, neurologist, was born in Vienna, Austria, 1895. He received his M.D. degree from the University of Vienna in 1918. From 1918 to 1930 he worked as an assistant to Heinrich Obersteiner at the Neurological Institute and did clinical work at the Polyclinic, Vienna, under Johann Karplas and Otto Marburg.

Of this period in Spiegels' life, one of Spiegel's subsequent colleagues, Dr. Henry T. Wycis, wrote, "His interests were early directed to the study of the nervous system...At age 29 he received the 'venia legendi' and thus became a member of the faculty of his alma mater. He applied himself not only to neurological research and experimentation but also to a tremendous amount of clinical studies, particularly since he came in contact with many ravages of influenza known then as the Spanish flu."

"While pursuing studies in comparative anatomy at the Obersteiner Institute, Spiegel discovered and described a group of organ cells on the undersurface of the psalterium and forniz respectively, which he renamed the ganglion psalterii. A series of systemic studies dealt with the influence of the labyrinth upon the vegetative nervous system...Of Spiegel's numerous studies on the physiology and pathology of the central connections of the labyrinth the demonstrations of a cortical projection partly to the temporo-parietal-occiptal border and partly to the frontal lobe by strychninization of the cortex and by electrographic studies were considered the most outstanding...Later, Spiegel went to do further research on the inner ear, especially the relationship of the labyrinth to functional disturbance."

Spiegel also developed a method for quantitative study of the convulsive reactivity by electric simulation of experimental animals with the skull intact. The method preceded the development of electroshock treatment of psychotic patients. The application was suggeted to him, but he thought it was inadvisable because of possible undesirable complications. His basic work in this area is said to have served as an investigative tool for present-day anti-convulsant drug therapy in epilepsy.

In 1930, Spiegel accepted the position of Professor and Head of the Department of Experimental and Applied Neurology at Temple University School of Medicine. A research foundation initiated by Daniel J. McCarthy and a reccommendationby Dr. Joseph C. Yaskin, one of Spiegel's American post-graduate students, helped Spiegel obtain the appointment. Spiegel emigrated to America with his wife, Dr. Mona Spiegel-Adolf, a biochemist, who also accepted an appointment at Temple University School of Medicine.

At Temple, Spiegel engaged in a combination of teaching and research activities. He attracted many American post-graduate students, and some of these contacts developed into long and productive collaborations. Henry T. Wycis received his medical and neurosurgical training at Temple University School of Medicine and worked in Spiegel's laboratory as a medical student. It was with Wycis that Spiegel, in 1947, pioneered and then reported the first stereotaxic instrument. Another Temple colleague, Dr. Philip L. Gildenberg, wrote "Spiegel...suggested to Henry Wycis...that it might be possible to use in humans the technique that Horsley and Clarke had in 1908 introduced in animals...[he] proposed that it should be possible to obtain equivalent therapeutic benefits with fewer undesirable side effects [than prefrontal lobotomies] by producing a circumscribed lesion in the dorsal median nucleus of the thalamus..."

In order to adapt the Horsley-Clarke system of stereotactic insertion of electrodes to humans, it was necessary to develop a new concept in electrode placement. Spiegel and Wycis worked to replace frontal lobotomies through stereotactic lesions in the dorsal median nucleus, creating a stereotactic apparatus for humans and a new technique. During this work, Wycis developed the first stereotactic atlas, after which Spiegel and Wycis implemented stereoencephalotomy (the sterotactic method with the use of intercerebral landmarks for the treatment of emotional disturbances, pain problems, extrapyramidal sickness, and convulsive sicknesses).

Spiegel undertook various attempts to evaluate the results of this treatment method. During the 1960s he wrote that its main scientific value of stereoencephalotomy from the pshycho-biologic view was that it allowed for the study of small, circumscribed lesions upon emotions and behavior. At the First International Neurosurgical Congress it was noted that stereotaxic surgery had experienced an unexpected and strong development since its introduction in 1947. This was evidenced not only of the construction of some three dozen modifications of stereotaxic devices by various individuals, but also by a large number of symposia held in Montevideo and Brussels (1957), Detroit (1957), Philadelphia (1961), Copenhagen and Vienna (1965), and Madrid (1967); by the publication of three more stereotaxic atlases of the human brain; and by the organization of an International Society for Research in Stereoencephalotomy and related national societies in the United States, Japan, and Italy. One neurological disorder that remained difficult to treat was Parkinsons' disease. Spiegel focused much of his energy on developing a non-surgical method during his last few years at Temple and at the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) in Miami, where he became research director after his retirment from the university in 1967. Spiegel was involved in testing at least two of the several substances in developmental stages for Parkinsons' disease. In 1965, he entered into an arrangement with Lakeside Laboratories, Division of the Colgate-Palmolive Company, Milwaukee, for testing a morphanthridine derivate (Lakeside number EX 10-023).

Spiegel was also investigating the mechanisms of tremor, rigidity, and akinesia. In laboratory experiments with Wycis and their Temple associate, Dr. Emery Szekely, they worked with L-Dopa. By 1968, Spiegel was furthering his research on L-Dopa at the NPF. His wife, Dr. Mona Spiegel-Adolf, assisted him as associate director of the Institute in charge of biochemistry. Synthetic L-Dopa was costly, and Spiegel hoped extracts of the fabia bean would prove useful; however, the quantity if extract produced was minimal and patients had to ingest too much during the course of a day to get enough dopamine to be of any value. It appears that the project was unsuccessful and ended in 1970. In 1982, Spiegel published his summative book, Guided Brain Operations: Methodogical and Clinical Developments in Stereotactic Surgery, Contributions to the Physiology of Subcortical Structures.

Altogether, Spiegel wrote or co-authored more than 420 publications, including five monographs. In addition, he established and edited two journals: Confinia Neurologica (1938) and Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry (1946).

During his career, Spiegel developed numerous professinal and personal relationships with colleagues worldwide. In recognition of his work, the University of Zürich (Switzerland), awarded him an honorary degree. He was also elected honorary member of the German Neurological Society and a corresponding member of the Vienna Medical and Psychiatric-Neurological Societies. He received the Otfried Förster Medal. The American EEG Society recognized his work with an honorary fellowship.

Dr. Spiegel died in 1985.


17 Linear feet

Language of Materials



Ernest A. Spiegel, M.D., was an Austrian-born internationally recognized neurologist. He emigrated to the United States in 1930, where he spent much of his career at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. He finished his career at the National Parkinson FOundation in Miami. Spiegel is well-known for his work in developing the stereotactic technique. He passed away in 1985. The papers of Ernest Spiegel reflect his varied interests in neurological research and publication from his years in medical school at the University of Vienna in the 1920s and continuing at Temple University Medical School in Philadelphia, where he joined the faculty in 1930. Included are family papers documenting Spiegel's early life in Vienna and course outlines and lecture notes from his career as a medical student and docent.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers of Ernest Speigel were given to The College of Physicians of Philadelphia by Spiegel's colleague, Dr. Henry W. Baird III, in February 1986.

Related Materials

At The College of Physicians of Philadelphia:

Henry W. Baird papers, MSS 2/003

Mona Spiegel-Adolf papers, MSS 2/252

Collection of Spiegel's neurological instruments, Mütter Museum collections.

At other repositories:

Biography files. Temple University Archives. Philadelphia, PA.

Mona Spiegel papers. Leo Baeck Institute. New York, NY.

Separated materials - oversize

Flat file no. 1, drawer 2

Contents: 14 certificates/diplomas
Ernest Spiegel papers
This collection was processed by Gail E. Farr in September 1986 with the support of a grant from the late Dr, Baird and his wife, Dr. Eleanora Gordon. The finding aid was revised by Chrissie Perella for clarity and length in January 2016.
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Repository Details

Part of the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Repository

19 S. 22nd Street
Philadelphia PA 19103 United States