14th Merritt’s Neurology Continues Columbia Tradition

November 1, 2021

Since 1955, “Merritt’s Neurology,” long regarded as the standard reference work in the field, has been edited by Columbia neurologists. James Noble, MD, associate professor of neurology, now joins those ranks, as co-editor of the newest, 14th edition, with former Columbia colleagues.

“Merritt’s” was first published in 1955 and authored by celebrated VP&S neurology chair H. Houston Merritt, who chaired neurology at VP&S from 1948 until 1968. Merritt was a transformative figure in 20th century neurology and consulted in the care of many famous people, including U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower and composer Dmitri Shostakovich. His leadership and the textbook he edited for six editions helped establish neurology as a field distinct from psychiatry and internal medicine and showed Columbia’s leadership in the field.

Dr. Noble, Dr. Louis, and Dr. Mayer showing Merritt's Neurology book
"We are hopeful others share our understanding of the importance of having a text like ‘Merritt's Neurology’ on our bookshelves, no matter how fast the computer next to it is,” says James Noble (center), the latest Columbia neurologist to edit "Merritt's." Noble is pictured with fellow co-editors Elan Louis (left) and Stephan Mayer (right).

Another illustrious Columbia neurologist, Lewis “Bud” Rowland, MD, chair of neurology at VP&S from 1973 to 1998, took over editing “Merritt’s” in 1984 with the 7th edition, bringing on other Columbia neurologists as co-editors, including Timothy Pedley, MD, for the 12th edition (2010) and Elan Louis, MD, and Stephan Mayer, MD, for the 13th edition (2016).

Noble, who has been at Columbia since his residency and worked closely with Rowland, was asked to join as co-editor after Rowland’s death in 2017.

Despite the availability of nearly every journal article on the internet, Noble says textbooks are still an important source for trainees and established practitioners.

The internet is “a recipe for confirmation bias,” Noble recently told Neurology Today. “You find something like a supporting article because you're specifically looking for it and omit other possibilities in the process. This approach limits opportunities to expand your knowledge base.

“Having a comprehensive way of learning about neurology, like a textbook, remains an important tool in training young doctors and avoids blind spots in learning. We are hopeful others share our understanding of the importance of having a text like ‘Merritt's Neurology’ on our bookshelves, no matter how fast the computer next to it is.”

The 14th edition of Merritt’s is also co-edited by Mayer, MD, now director of neurocritical care at Westchester Medical Center and professor of neurology and neurosurgery at New York Medical College, and Louis, now chair of neurology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.