Alois Alzheimer Remembered



6 JULY 1860 – 28 FEBRAUARY 1901


14 JUNE 1864 – 19 DEZEMBER 1915

For anyone who has experienced the blank look in your mother’s eyes when she struggled to remember who you are, the name Alzheimer is a familiar name.  The name of the disease strikes fear in people diagnosed with it and those who are the caregivers.  The disease robs a person of their memories.

While I generally focus my writing on North American cemeteries I was in Frankfurt, Germany, on business in the last couple of weeks and had an afternoon to myself.  I jumped on the Metro and made my way to the Frankfurt Hauptfriedhof—the main cemetery.  And buried there in the magnificent cemetery with broad tree-lined alleys and walkways is the famous scientist, Alois Alzheimer, known for his work with Auguste Deter, the first person diagnosed with pre-senile dementia.

In 1906, Alzheimer published a paper describing the condition that he identified in his patient Deter.  Though Deter was only 50 years old, she exhibited short-term memory loss, paranoia, aggression, and sleep disturbance.  After her death, he studied her brain tissue and Alzheimer noted abnormal plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in her brain histology.  Though the medical field took little notice of Alzheimer’s paper, his colleague, Emil Kraepelin included the disease in his 1910 edition of Psyciatrie, naming it Alzheimer’s disease for the clinical psychiatrist and neuroanatomist—Alois Alzheimer.

His grave is in a corner of the cemetery far away from the main gate.  His monument backs up to the brick wall that encompasses the cemetery.  The bas-relief depicts a young boy clutching to what appears to be a rose and bud as he stands before a woman whose head is bent.

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