ALS was identified as a specific disease by Jean Martin Charcot, a pioneering French neurologist working in Paris in 1869s, and thus is still sometimes called Charcot’s disease in France.
It wasn’t until 1939 that Lou Gehrig brought national and international attention to the disease. Lou Gehrig was a famous baseball player for the New York Yankees. He played in more consecutive baseball games than any other player, until his record was broken by Cal Ripken, Jr., in 1995. Throughout his career, Gehrig was a symbol of indestructibility — the “iron man” of baseball. On May 2, 1939, he pulled himself out of the lineup of players “for the good of the team.” He was not playing well and knew that something was physically wrong. Within a few months, Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS. He died two years later. To this day, the disease is still most closely associated with his name, often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”
Relatively little progress was made in understanding ALS until the 1990s, when there were major research efforts with encouraging results.