George Sumner Huntington was born on April 9, 1850, in East Hampton, Long Island, New York. His father and grandfather had both been medical practitioners, and George followed them into the medical profession, graduating from Columbia University in 1871 at the age of 21. The following year he moved to Pomeroy and married Mary E. Heckard. On February 15, 1872, Dr. Huntington traveled to Middleport to address the local medical society, composed of physicians of Meigs County, Ohio and Mason County, West Virginia. As a child, George had accompanied his father on sick calls, observing common and uncommon afflictions. On one such visit, he witnessed a family afflicted by chorea, a nervous disorder marked by uncontrollable and irregular movements of the arms, legs, and face. His address in Middleport, titled "On Chorea," referenced what would be known later as Huntington's Disease.
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George Sumner Huntington's February 1872 address in Middleport was published eight weeks later in the Medical and Surgical Reporter, published in Philadelphia. In three short paragraphs, Huntington described what he called hereditary chorea (now known as Huntington's Disease) as having three main features - a "hereditary nature," a "tendency toward insanity," and "its manifestation as a grave disease in adult life." This became one of the classical descriptions of a neurological disease and led to great interest into the origins of the terrible affliction. Since Dr. Huntington's address in Middleport, 9,000 articles have been published on Huntington's Disease; the genetic marker for the disease was found in 1983 and research efforts toward a cure continue. Ironically, Huntington was not a medical researcher, nor did he have any interest in the subject. He and his wife left Pomeroy in 1873, moving back to New York State where Dr. Huntington practiced medicine.