|Alois Alzheimer and his research group in 1909|
On November 3, 1906, German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer presented for the first time the pathology and the clinical symptoms of presenile dementia together, later renamed in his honor as Alzheimer’s disease.
Alois Alzheimer studied medicine at the University of Würzburg and the University of Tübingen. In 1887, he finished his dissertation, which consisted of only 17 pages. Shortly after, Alzheimer became assistant to the psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffman, who became later famous for his children’s book ‘Struwwelpeter’. Together, they practiced new treatments for mental ill patients. Instead of using straitjackets and forcing the patients to eat, they preferred long walks in the park and thermal treatments. In the late 1890’s, Alois Alzheimer got married but the happiness could not last for long. His wife got the Alzheimer disease in 1901 and passed away in the same year. The devastated widower immediately started researching on the mysterious illness his wife suffered from.
In November of the same year, Alzheimer met the patient Auguste Deter. Her husband took her to the clinic because of her strange behavior in the last months. After interviewing the patient, Alzheimer noted that the woman had no orientation on time, she never knew where she was and could only remember very little details of her daily life. Also she could not give reasonable answers and her mood often changed from fear to anger to sorrow very quickly. Alzheimer got very interested in the case of Auguste Deter, because of her young age. Previous patent showed pretty much similar syptoms but all were at least 70 years old, Deter was only 51 and Alzheimer soon titled her illness as the ‘disease of forgetting’.
In 1902, Alois Alzheimer moved to Heidelberg and later to Munich. During these years, the scientist prevented that his patient Auguste Deter would be moved to another hospital because he wanted to examine her after she passed away. In April 1906, Alzheimer received the message that Auguste Deter died from blood poisoning and he started examining her brain. Alzheimer found out that many nerve cells of her brain have died and senile plaques have established. On November 3, 1906, he presented his stunning research results on the pathology and the clinical symptoms of presenile dementia to the University of Tübingen. His research laboratory gained international attention. Next to the Alzheimer disease, the scientist made significant contributions to understanding further illnesses like Huntington’s chorea, brain tumors, and epilepsy.
You may be interested in Zahra Moussavi’s ted talk on battling Alzheimer’s Disease.
References and Further Reading:
- The tangled story of Alois Alzheimer [PDF]
- Alois Alzheimer at the German National Library
- Auguste Deter at the German Alzheimer Society
- Alzheimer’s Disease at BBC
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