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Alois Alzheimer

Alumnus of the Month April 2020

* June 14th, 1864, Marktbreit (Bavaria)                                             † December 19th, 1915, Breslau

1884      Began medical studies in Berlin, Würzburg and Tübingen
1888      Assistant doctor in Frankfurt
1895      Senior physician in Frankfurt
1901      First meeting with Auguste Deter
1902      Medical assistant at the Psychiatric University Hospital Heidelberg 
1912      Professorship in Breslau

The Universitätsarchiv Würzburg’s Alumnus of the Month for April 2020 is Alois Alzheimer. Known mainly for the discovery of the dementia illness, which later was named after Alzheimer. The modern pathological diagnosis of the Alzheimer´s disease is still based on the same research methods that Alzheimer used for the first time in 1906.


After finishing high school in Aschaffenburg, Alzheimer attended his medical studies at the Universities of Berlin, Tübingen and Würzburg. He wrote his thesis “About the ceruminal gland” at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität in Würzburg. One year later, after he had passed the state examinations successfully, he worked as assistant doctor in Frankfurt for Emil Sioli at the “Municipal sanatorium for psychotics and epileptics”.

The work in this field awakened Alzheimer´s interest in human brains and made him dedicate his time to research the histological and histopathological studies of the cerebral cortex; in 1895 he became a Senior physician in Frankfurt. Seven years later he resumed his studies under Emil Kraepelin in Heidelberg and subsequently in Munich. Alzheimer became the leader of the brain-anatomical laboratory in Munich; he qualified as a professor in 1904 in this research area.

In 1912, Alzheimer went to Breslau in order to assume the chair for psychiatry at the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universität. During the journey he became ill of an infectious illness, which pertained among others his heart. Alzheimer never convalesced from that illness for the rest of his life.

The case Auguste Deter

Alois Alzheimer met Auguste Deter for the first time in 1901, when he treated her in Frankfurt. He observed serious memory problems, disorientation and hallucinations. Her case became interesting again for Alzheimer, after Deter died in 1906 at the age of 56. Up to that time this quantity of disorientation was just observed by older people and Alzheimer wanted to consider her brain again. By doing so he noticed that the cerebral cortex was thinner than in healthy brains and moreover he found deposits (plaques).

At November 3th 1906 Alois Alzheimer discoursed a presentation at the 37. convention of south-west-German alienists and described for the first time the “strange symptoms”, which he discovered in Auguste Deter. Emil Kraepelin used the case Deter under the name “Alzheimersche Krankheit” for his book in 1910. That was for many years the only contemplation of Alzheimer´s research results. It was not until fifty years later that the Alzheimer-illness became interesting again for the medical research.

Recommended Reading:

Maurer, Ulrike; Maurer, Konrad: Alzheimer. Das Leben eines Arztes und die Karriere einer Krankheit. München 2000.