Dr. Jean Aicardi, 1926–2015

Dr. Jean Aicardi was a French neurologist who first described the rare genetic form of epilepsy know as Aicardi syndrome today. This rare epilepsy disorder that almost always affects females, is primarily defined by the underdevelopment of the corpus callosum area of the brain, holes in the pigmented part of the eye, and infantile spasms.

Dr. Aicardi was born in 1926 in Rambouillet, France. After earning his MD from the Faculté de Médecine in Paris in 1955 his early professional training was at the Hôpital des Enfants Malades. His entry into this field was not planned from his recollection, rather it came about through chance encounters in his early training in Paris with mentors and colleagues who were interested in neurology and children. With no defined training program, he found a path forward through many obstacles, including the lack of formal support for physicians who wished to enter the field of child neurology.

A humble man, he gave much credit to his friends, partners and colleagues in France, in Europe and on the other side of the Atlantic for what he learned and what he created, yet the professional world credits his his genius and hard work for his many successes. He was a Director of Research for INSERM until his mandatory retirement at age 65, but official retirement did not stop his life’s mission to help children with neurological problems. He continued his work well into his 70’s at Miami Children’s Hospital and at the Institute of Child Health in London. He authored over 400 articles and was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Epileptic Disorders, which has become the ILAE educational journal. He mentored many who are now national and international leaders in child neurology. His legacy is as much in his successes as it is in the success of those whom he taught and inspired.

With great sadness, we learned of the passing of Jean Aicardi, who died the morning of August 3, 2015. Many families have benefited from his research and researchers alike hope to continue his drive for a cure.