William stokes


Born: 1 October 1804 Dublin, Ireland, United Kingdom

Died:10 January 1878 (aged 73) Howth, Ireland, United Kingdom




Institutions:University of Dublin

Known for:Cheyne–Stokes respiration                             Stokes–Adams syndrome

William stokes was born on 1st October 1804 and died on 10th January 1878. He is known for his contribution in the treatment of cardiac and pulmonary diseases. 

William Stokes (1 October 1804 – 10 January 1878) was an Irish physician, who was Regius Professor of Physic at the University of Dublin. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh Medical School with an MD in 1825 later returning the practice in Dublin at Meath Hospital. he went on to create two important works on cardiac and pulmonary diseases – A Treatise on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Diseases of the Chest (1837) and The Diseases of the Heart and Aorta (1854) – as well as one of the first treatises on the use of the stethoscope. He emphasised the importance of clinical examination in forming diagnoses, and of ward-based learning for students of medicine.

Both Cheyne–Stokes breathing (the alternation of apnoea with tachypnoea) and Stokes–Adams syndrome are named after him. Stokes’ sign is a severe throbbing in the abdomen, at the right of the umbilicus, in acute enteritis. Stokes law is that a muscle situated above an inflamed membrane is often affected with paralysis.


Cheyne-Stokes respiration is also known as periodic respiration, with cycles of respiration that are increasingly deeper then shallower with possible periods of apnoea. Although 50% of patients with moderate-to-severe congestive heart failure are affected by significant Cheyne-Stokes respiration, its exact pathophysiology remains unclear. Typically, over a period of one minute, a 10- to 20-second episode of apnoea or hypopnoea occurs followed by respirations of increasing depth and frequency. The cycle then repeats itself.

Patients with Cheyne-Stokes respiration usually present with the symptoms of orthopnoea, paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnoea, excessive daytime sleepiness and witnessed apnoeas in the setting of congestive heart failure. 

Cheyne-Stokes respiration is a poor prognostic sign, most often seen in terminal care. However, it may also be present as a normal finding in children, in healthy adults following fast ascending to great altitudes, or in sleep.

Causes include:

Brainstem lesions: cerebrovascular event.


Raised intracranial pressure.

Heart failure. 

Chronic pulmonary oedema.

Altitude sickness.

Management includes medical therapy directed at congestive heart failure, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and/or supplemental oxygen.

Stokes believed that medical doctors and surgeons should get the same basic training (“The constitution is one; there is no division of it into a medical and surgical domain”).He felt that medicine was not a single science but “an art, depending on all sciences,”and that a liberal education could,give a student the moral character so necessary for medicine. Thus,  William stokes made a great contribution in the history of science.

Draft by: Twinkal


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