Frank Wilson. The Hand by Frank Wilson, 1998. Book cover.
Dr. Frank Wilson was an early contributor to the development of performing arts medicine in the United States and Europe in the 1980s. In 1986 he was a cofounder and neurologist for the Health Program for Performing Artists at the University of California, San Francisco, where his interest focused on impaired hand control in musicians.
In 1989 he moved to the University of Düsseldorf in Germany, where he held a one-year fellowship as visiting professor of neurology and was the organizer of a research team studying focal hand dystonia in musicians.
Following his return to California in 1990, Dr. Wilson continued his work with performing artists. He began a trial of music-learning experiences for patients in the neurological rehabilitation program at Mt. Zion Hospital, and for two years he was the neurologist on a multidisciplinary team investigating upper-extremity injuries among textile designers at Levi Strauss Company in San Francisco.
He became the medical director of the Health Program for Performing Artists in 1996, and in 2001 accepted an appointment as clinical professor of neurology at Stanford University School of Medicine, joining a clinical research team that studied deep brain stimulation for patients with complex movement disorders.
Dr. Wilson’s career-long interest in the neurology of human hand control is reflected in two books that explore the neurological and anthropological underpinnings of skilled hand use: Tone Deaf and All Thumbs? (Viking-Penguin, 1986) and The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture (Pantheon Books, 1998), which was nominated that year for a Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.