The history of the inattentive gets attention

Sir George F Still

Sir George Frederick Still (1868-1941) The father of British pediatrics.

England’s first professor in child medicine presented on 4th, 6th and 11th March 1902 a series of three lectures to the Royal College of Physicians in London, under the name “Goulstonian lectures” on ‘some abnormal psychical conditions in children’, which were published later the same year in the Lancet. He described 43 children who had serious problems with sustained attention and self-regulation, who were often aggressive, defiant, and resistant to discipline, excessively emotional or passionate, who showed little inhibitory volition, had serious problems with sustained attention and could not learn from the consequences of their actions; though their intellect was normal.

He wrote “I would point out that a notable feature in many of these cases of moral defect without general impairment of intellect is a quite abnormal incapacity for sustained attention.

He concluded: “there is a defect of moral consciousness which cannot be accounted for by any fault of environment” When Still was talking about Moral Control, he was referring to it as William James had did before him, but to Still, the moral control of behavior meant “the control of action in conformity with the idea of the good of all”


Some abnormal psychical conditions in children: the Goulstonian lectures”. The Lancet’, 1902;1:1008-1012

Russell A. Barkley: The Relevance of the Still Lectures to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder A Commentary. 2006; 10; 137 J Atten Disord.

George F. Still Some Abnormal Psychical Conditions in Children: Excerpts From Three Lectures 2006; 10; 126 J Atten Disord.

-Many Thanks to: Professor Russell A Barkley for kind advice and Professor Stanley Finger; at Washington University in St. Louis for kind advice and good spirit.

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