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Germany

Who was Alois Alzheimer?

Background on the German physician Alois Alzheimer who first described the debilitating, progressive illness known today as Alzheimer's disease.

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Dr. Konrad Maurer holds a turn-of-the-century medical file belonging to Alois Alzheimer in which he documented the first case of Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer was born in 1864 in Markbreit, Bavaria. He was educated at medical schools in Tübingen, Berlin, and Würzburg. He received his Medical Doctorate from the University of Würzburg in 1887. He was appointed a clinical assistant at the Irrenanstalt (asylum) in Frankfurt at the age of 23.

Here Alzheimer collaborated with neurologist Franz Nissl in researching the pathology of the nervous system. Together they published the six-volume Histologic and Histopathologic Studies of the Cerebral Cortex between 1904 and 1918.

At a meeting in 1907 Alzheimer presented the case of a 51-year-old woman Frau August D, whose symptoms included depression and hallucinations, dementia, and, upon, postmortem examination, a "paucity of cells in the cerebral cortex...and clumps of filaments between the nerve cells."

The disease he described is today known as Alzheimer's disease.

In addition to his research on dementia, Alzheimer also made significant contributions to the field of histology, making important observations in epilepsy, brain tumors, Huntington's chorea, alcoholic delirium, and other areas. He was widely admired as a meticulous and dedicated researcher and a generous teacher.

In 1912 the University of Breslau appointed Alzheimer professor of psychiatry and director of the Psychiatric and Neurologic Institute. Alzheimer continued his research there for the next three years.

He died of rheumatic heart disease and cardiac failure at the age of 51. He was buried next to his wife in the Jewish cemetery in Frankfurt am Main.