S. Weir Mitchell

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(b. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 15 February 1829; d. Philadelphia, 4 January 1914)

medicine, neurology.

Mitchell’s father, John Kearsley Mitchell, was professor of medicine at Jefferson Medical College, where the younger Mitchell graduated in 1850. He then spent a year in Europe attending the lectures of Claude Bernard and the microscopist Charles Philippe Robin. In 1851 he joined his father’s Philadelphia medical practice, a practice that S. W. Mitchell continued until his own death in 1914.

Between 1852 and 1863 Mitchell published more than thirty papers on a variety of topics ranging from the toxic effects of rattlesnake venom to the crystalline forms of uric acid. The physiological bent of these eark papers reflected his Paris experience; and though Mitchell always maintained an interest in toxicology, pharmacology, and physiology, his later writings were generally more clinically oriented. The nature of his clinical work was deeply affected by his medical experiences in the Civil War. He treated many patients with nerve injuries, post-traumatic epilepsy, and other neurological conditions at the Turner’s Lane Hospital, the 400-bed army neurological hospital in Philadelphia where Mitchell was assigned.

In collaboration with William Keen, Jr., and George Morehouse, he published in 1864 the important study Gunshot Wounds and Other Injuries of Nerves. Mitchell later extended this treatise into a delinithe monograph, Injuries of Nerves and Their Consequences (1872). By this time he was widely recognized as the outstanding American neurologist. His additional contributions to clinical neurology included papers on posthemiplegic chorea,1 causalgia and traumatic neuralgia,2 the effects of weather on painful amputation stumps,3 various forms of headache,4 and a rare condition he called erythromelalgia.5 Mitchell also investigated the plnsiology of the cerebellum 6 and the cutaneous distribution of nerves,7 described the cremasteric reflex,8 and (with Morris J. Lewis) gase an early account of the phenomenon of sensory reinforcement of the deep tendon reflexes.9

Mitchell published two general neurological works, Lectures on Diseases of the Nervous System—Especially in Women (1881) and Clinical Lessons on Nervous Diseases (1897). His preeminence as a neurologist brought him many patients with functional and neurotic complaints. He was especially interested in hysteria, and a large portion of the two general treatises is devoted to the description and treatment of hysteria and related disorders. Mitchell popularized the “rest cure” in the management of many kinds of nervous diseases, both functional and organic.10 His concern with therapeutics also resulted in a number of papers on the pharmacology of the bromides, lithium, and chloral hydrate.

In addition, Mitchell wrote novels, short stories, and poetry; indeed, in his later years his fame as a man of letters equaled his reputation as a physician. His home on Walnut Street was a longtime center of Philadelphia’s intellectual life. Mitchell’s intimates included William Osler, William Henry Welch, and John Shaw Billings.


1. “Post-Panalytic Chorea,” in American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 61 (1874), 342–352.

2. “Clinical Lecture on Certain Painful Affections of the Feet,” in Philadelphia Medical Times, 3 (1872), 81–82, 113- 115.

3. “The Relation’s of Pain to Weather,” in American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 73 (1877), 305–329.

4. “Headaches, From Heat Stroke, From Fevers, After Meningitis, From Over Use of the Brain, From Eye Stiain,” in Medical and Surgical Reporter, 31 (1874), 67–70.

5. “On a Rare Vaso-motor Neurosis of the Extremities, and on the Maladies With Which It May Be Confounded,” in American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 76 (1878), 17–36.

6. “Researches on the Physiology of the Cerebellum,” ibid., 57 (1869), 320–338.

7. “The Supply of Nerves to the Skin,” in Philadelphia Medical Times, 4 (1874), 401–403.

8. “The Cremaster-Reflex,” in Journal of Nervous and Mental Diseases, 6 (1879), 577–586.

9. “Physiological Studies of the Knee-jerk, and of the Reactions of Muscles Under Mechanical and Other Excitants,” in Medical News, 48 (1886), 169–173, 198–203.

10. “Rest in Nervous Disease: Its Use and Abuse,” in A Series of American Clinical Lectures, E. C. Seguin, ed., I (New York, 1875), 83–102; also in the semipopular book by Milchell, Fat and Blood (Philadelphia, 1877)


I. Original Works. Mitchell wrote more than 170 medical and scientific papers. To the books and articles mentioned in the text and notes should be added the following: Wear and Tear (Philadelphia, 1871); Nurse and Patient(Philadelphia, 1877); and Doctor and Patient (Philadelphia, 1888), all popular works.

Mitchell’s lifelong interest in the physiological effects of snake venom led to a number of papers, including “Researches Upon the Venoms of Poisonous Snakes,” in Smithsonian Contributions to knowledge, 26 (1886), 1–186, written with Edward Reichert.

A complete bibliography of Mitchell’s medical, scientific, and literary works may be found in Richard D. Waller, S. Weir Mitchell, M.D., Neurologist: A Medical Biography (Springfield, Ill., 1970), 207–222.

II. Secondary Literature. Anna Robeson Burr, Weir Mitchell—His Life and Letters (New York, 1929), is an important source of letters and includes an autobiographical fragment. Ernest Earnest, S. Weir Mitchell—Novelist and Physician (Philadelphia, 1950), emphasizes his literary achievements. Mitchell’s scientific and medical work is extensively considered in the volume by Richard Walter (see above). This book also contains a full bibliography of additional Secondary Literature.

William F. Bynum

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Mitchell, Silas Weir


Education: University of California, San Diego, M.F.A. Avocational interests: Studying wine.


Agent—Michael Greene, Michael Greene and Associates, 190 North Canon Dr., Suite 200, Beverly Hills, CA 90210.


Actor and producer.


Television Appearances; Series:

Eli, a recurring role, 24, Fox, 2002.

Charles "Haywire" Patoshik, a recurring role, Prison Break (also known as Prison Break: Manhunt and Prison Break: On the Run), Fox, 2005-2007.

Can't Do, The PTA, 2006.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Hitchhiker, Quicksilver Highway, Fox, 1997.

Anderson, Sins of the Mind, USA Network, 1997.

Pogue, The Patriot, HBO, 1998.

Agent Paul Denning, Route 9, HBO, 1998.

Jack Gaskin, Absence of the Good, HBO, 1999.

Jimmy Dale, A Painted House (also known as John Grisham's "A Painted House"), CBS, 2003.

Derek, Life on Liberty Street, Hallmark Channel, 2004.

Robbins, Detective (also known as Arthur Hailey's "Detective"), Lifetime, 2005.

(Uncredited) Max, Fathers and Sons, Showtime, 2005.

Joseph "Joe" Devine, McBride: Anybody Here Murder Marty?, Hallmark Channel, 2005.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

Mitch Slaughter, Johnson County War, Hallmark Channel, 2002.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Peter Raymond Wicker, "The Lonely Hunter," Silk Stalkings, USA Network, 1995.

Willy, "The New Marshal," The Marshal, ABC, 1995.

Louis, "Caroline and the New Neighbor," Caroline in the City (also known as Caroline), 1997.

Kuleshov, "Strangers in the Night," Dark Skies, NBC, 1997.

Luis, "Ambush," ER, NBC, 1997.

Tony, "Remembrance of Humps Past," NYPD Blue, ABC, 1997.

Dean Delnunzio, "The Art of War," C-16: FBI, ABC, 1998.

Marcus Hainey, "Stuck on You," ER, NBC, 1998.

Captain Jesse Fisher, "Dishonorable Discharge," Vengeance Unlimited, 1998.

Dougie, "Agua Mala," The X-Files, Fox, 1999.

Luke, "Risque Business," The Pretender, NBC, 1999.

Roy McNair, "Jackpots: Parts 1 & 2," Nash Bridges, CBS, 2000.

Anthony Brickman, "New Evidence," The Practice, ABC, 2000.

Anthony Brickman, "Hammerhead Sharks," The Practice, ABC, 2000.

Luke, "Everybody Plays the Mule," NYPD Blue, ABC, 2000.

Roland Carney, "The Golden Hour," The Agency, CBS, 2002.

Ruhk, "The Black Box," Push, Nevada, ABC, 2002.

Mr. Slick, "Slick," Birds of Prey (also known as BOP), The WB, 2002.

Erik Sorenson, "Coyote," Boomtown, NBC, 2002.

James Hogan, "Sherry Darlin'," Cold Case, CBS, 2003.

Dion Corelli, "The Trap," Six Feet Under, HBO, 2003.

Ralph Durst (some sources cite Frankie Durst), "Stalkerazzi," CSI: Miami, 2004.

Frank Jones/Alastair Dark, "Revealed," Crossing Jordan, NBC, 2004.

Deranged husband, "A Couple of Choices," Medium, NBC, 2005.

Reese Pardee, "Two Towns," JAG, CBS, 2005.

David Scott, "Crime and Misdemeanor," CSI: NY, CBS, 2005.

James Hogan, "Kensington," Cold Case, CBS, 2005.

Willie Angel, "Room Service," CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (also known as C.S.I., CSI: Las Vegas, CSI Weekends, and Les experts), CBS, 2005.

Donny Jones, "Quit Smoking," My Name Is Earl, NBC, 2005.

Donny Jones, "Y2K," My Name Is Earl, NBC, 2006.

Drugstore manager, "Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike," Monk, USA Network, 2006.

Luke Seaver, "The Thing with Feathers," Without a Trace (also known as W.A.T.), CBS, 2006.

Donny Jones, "Our "Cops" Is On!," My Name Is Earl, NBC, 2007.

Donny Jones, "The Birthday Party," My Name Is Earl, NBC, 2007.

Appeared as Floyd, The Single Guy, NBC.

Film Appearances:

Gregor Tarnopol, Playing Dangerous 2 (also known as Hide & Seek: Playing Dangerous 2), Trimark Pictures, 1996.

Patient, Private Parts (also known as Howard Stern's "Private Parts"), Paramount, 1997.

Stonewall, Julian Po (also known as The Tears of Julian Po), Fine Line, 1997.

Jesse Hogan, Coyote Moon (also known as Desert Heat and Inferno), Viacom, 1999.

Harry, Bingo, 1999.

Weeping man, Other Voices, 2000.

Lloyd, Rat Race (also known as Course folle), Paramount, 2001.

Bertrand, Ant (short film), Apollo Cinema, 2002.

Ethan, Ethan and Alan (short film), Artists/Industry, 2002.

Yermo, The Whole Ten Yards, Warner Bros., 2004.

Lester, Heart of the Beholder, Beholder Productions, 2005.

First lab technician, Flags of Our Fathers, DreamWorks, 2006.

Vladimir Narcijac, The Phobic, Alex Ryan Productions, 2006.

Neal, Crazy, Spotlight Pictures, 2007.

Albert Fish, Jr., Wisteria: The Story of Albert Fish, Raven Wolf Films, 2007.

Film Producer:

Ant (short film), Apollo Cinema, 2002.

Stage Appearances:

Ernie and Peter, Wonderful Time, Workshop of the Players Art Theatre, New York City, 1996-97.

Silva Vaccaro, Tiger Tale, New York City, 1999.

S. J. Perelman, Red Paramore, W. R. Wilkerson, and Graydon Howard, Gatsby in Hollywood, Met Theatre, Spokane, WA, 2002.

Stage Work:

Coproducer, Gatsby in Hollywood, Met Theatre, Spokane, WA, 2002.

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