Alois d’Alzheimer You may have heard of him. Its name undoubtedly occupies a prominent place because it is associated with one of the most troubling illnesses that affect people.
In 1906, the first neuropathologist identified the symptoms of today’s Alzheimer’s disease. This man is of course Alois Alzheimer, then 42 years old and has been working with Emile Kraepelin, the “Linné de Psychiatrie”, for almost four years. But if we want to filter out the works of this genius from the sale of cigarettes, we have to look at the man too.
Alzheimer’s, man and genius
Alois Alzheimer describes his professional life in his résumé written in Munich in 1903 as follows: “The undersigned, Dr. med. Alois Alzheimer, Catholic, born on June 14, 1864, the son of the royal notary Eduard Alzheimer in Marktbreit in Bavaria, attended primary school in Marktbeit, high school in Aschaffenburg and the universities of Berlin, Tübingen and Würzburg. “In 1894 Cecilie Geisenheimer married Wallerstein in Frankfurt.
One year after graduating from the medical school in 1887, Alois Alzheimer accompanied women with mental illnesses on a trip for a total of five months. He then entered the city’s psychiatric institution from Frankfurt am Main, the municipal mental asylum under the direction of Emil Sioli. Here Alzheimer learned more about psychiatry and neuropathology, which he was very interested in.
A year later, the respected neurologist Franz Nissl joined Sioli’s staff as a second doctor, and soon afterwards he and Alois Alzheimer worked on a thorough study of the pathology of the nervous system. His study focused in particular on the normal and pathological anatomy of the cerebral cortex. Their results were later published between 1906 and 1918 in a 6-volume book entitled Histological and Histopathological Work on the Cerebral Cortex (Histological and Histopathological Examinations of the Cerebral Cortex).
Nissl then worked with Kraepelin, the then leading German psychiatrist, in Heidelberg, while Alois Alzheimer continued his research on a variety of topics, but this time as director of the mental asylum in 1895.
Then, in 1906, Auguste Deter, a 55-year-old woman who met Alois Alzheimer in 1901, died. Alzheimer was working in Munich at the time, but when he heard the news, he asked his former boss Sioli to have access to Auguste D.’s archives and brain. Later, in November of the same year, at a meeting in the southwest of the German Alien Society, he described the clinical and neuropathological properties of Auguste D as “a peculiar treatment of the cortex”. The disease was then simply referred to as “Alzheimer’s disease” according to the man who discovered it.