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Aloysius Alzheimer: The Man Who Discovered Alzheimer's Disease

Readmikenow has written about various medical conditions. He has previously written a series of articles on Polyarteritis nodosa.

Aloysius Alzheimer

Aloysius Alzheimer

In 1906, Aloysius Alzheimer successfully identified the first case of Alzheimer's disease. The case was described by his colleague Emil Kraepelin as a type of dementia. Alzheimer has initially been Kraepelin's research assistant. Their time together was spent at a medical school in Munich. The two of them created a lab dedicated to brain science research. It was during this time Alzheimer noticed the brain of one of his patients was very different from the brains of his other patients.

Early Years

On June 14, 1864, Aloysius Alzheimer was born in Bavaria in the village of Marktbreit. His father was Edward Roman Alzheimer and his mother was Johanna Barbara Sabina. In the family's hometown, his father worked as a notary public. When Alzheimer was young, his family relocated to Aschaffenburg. This was done so Alzheimer and his siblings could attend the Royal Humanist Gymnasium. He graduated in 1883 and became a student at the University of Berlin studying medicine. He also studied at the University of Tubingen and the University of Wurzburg. Aloysius Alzheimer earned a Doctor of Medicine from Wurzburg.

Personal Life

Alzheimer was married in 1894 to Cecilie Simonette Nathalie Geisenheimer. The couple had three children. In 1901, Alzheimer's wife died.

Professional Career

After graduation, Alzheimer worked for five months helping mentally ill women. He then accepted a position in Frankfurt at the city mental asylum. During this time, he worked with others conducting research on the pathology of the human nervous system. His efforts were focused on the pathological and normalcy anatomy of the human cerebral cortex. He also became a co-publisher as well as co-founder of Zeitschrift für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie journal.

Auguste D.

Auguste D.

Patient

The discovery of Alzheimer's disease started with one of his patients referred to as Auguste D. She was a woman who was 51 years old and was experiencing disorientation as well as loss of memory. The husband of Auguste D wanted his wife moved to a less expensive facility. Alzheimer was able to keep her at the Frankfurt asylum. He was then able to observe her daily. Alzheimer made a deal to obtain Auguste D's brain upon her death. Auguste D died on April 8, 1906. Her medical records and brain were taken to Kraepelin's laboratory and Alzheimer began his work.

Discovery

After Auguste D’s death, Alzheimer performed an autopsy on her brain. He identified two distinct characteristics associated with her condition. One was patches of disintegrated nerve-cell branches and the other was tangled clumps of nerve fibers. These brain abnormalities would later be identified as what is now known as Alzheimer's disease.

Image of Alzheimers Disease

Image of Alzheimers Disease

Public Forum

On November 3, 1906, Alzheimer discussed his findings at a public forum This took place during the Southwest German Psychiatrists Tübingen meeting. Few of the attendees were interested in what Alzheimer was saying.

Emil Kraepelin

Emil Kraepelin

Published Papers

After giving the public lecture on the topic, Alzheimer published a well-received short paper summarizing his lecture. In 1907, he wrote and published a much longer paper covering the details of his findings. The disease he discovered and wrote about would start being referred to as Alzheimer's disease in 1910. This occurred when his associate Emil Kraepelin wrote a chapter in the 8th edition of his book called “Handbook of Psychiatry.” In a chapter labeled, “Presenile and Senile Dementia,” Kraepelin referred to the condition as Alzheimer's Disease. This particular description of the disease was commonly used by European physicians starting in 1911.

Other Work

During his career, Alzheimer helped advance the understanding of other diseases. This included epilepsy and more. His work is known for serving as the foundation in advancing the development toward a cure for these diseases. Alzheimer was able to show how epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease overlap in many ways. Both cause problems with navigation, spatial memory, and cellular death. Damage to the brain's hippocampus and degeneration of the brain's temporal lobe is present in both conditions. Many researchers agreed with Alzheimer's findings and continued his work.

University of Breslau

University of Breslau

University of Breslau

Alzheimer was appointed Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Breslau in 1912. He considered this position the realization of his dreams. Alzheimer would be able to work as a clinician and director. He would be running a psychiatric hospital.

Death

Alzheimer became ill on a train in August 1912. He was going to the University of Breslau. It is believed that Alzheimer had a streptococcal infection and subsequent rheumatic fever. This resulted in him experiencing valvular heart disease as well as kidney failure. Unable to properly recover, Alzheimer died of heart failure on December 19, 1915. He was 51 years old at the time. Alzheimer was buried on December 23, 1915, at Hauptfriedhof in Frankfurt, Germany. He was placed next to his wife.

Sources

National Institute of Health

Alzheimer's Disease International

Time Magazine

Read More From Youmemindbody

Britannica


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2021 Readmikenow

Comments

Readmikenow (author) on October 16, 2021:

Femi, thanks.

femi from Nigeria on October 16, 2021:

Alzheimer's disease is horrific, looking at loved ones sometimes in perfect health slowly losing their minds. Don't know if it is possible to find a cure because the brain is a complex organ

Readmikenow (author) on October 14, 2021:

Fran, thanks. He was a real medical pioneer.

fran rooks from Toledo, Ohio on October 14, 2021:

Mike, great article on a man medical science owes a lot to. I hope his research will soon gain a cure for the devastating disease of Alzheimer's. A shame he died so young. Thanks for sharing.

Readmikenow (author) on October 14, 2021:

MG, thanks.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on October 13, 2021:

This is very interesting information about the man who discovered Alzheimer's disease.

Readmikenow (author) on October 13, 2021:

Peggy, thanks. I agree with you.

Readmikenow (author) on October 13, 2021:

Cheryl, thanks.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 13, 2021:

It is always interesting to know how diseases or medical conditions get named. It is a shame that he died so young. He might have gone on to discover other things valuable to medical science.

Cheryl E Preston from Roanoke on October 13, 2021:

Thank you for this fascinating information

Readmikenow (author) on October 13, 2021:

Louise, thanks. I was fascinated to learn things I did not know about him or the disease.

Readmikenow (author) on October 13, 2021:

Liz, thanks. I agree. I'm sure he could have gone on to do many more great things.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on October 13, 2021:

That was very interesting to read. I didn't realise the disease was named after the man that diagnosed it. The video was interesting to watch too.

Liz Westwood from UK on October 13, 2021:

This is a fascinating and very relevant biographical article. It is sad that he died at a relatively young age.

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