Aloysius “Alois” Alzheimer (June 14, 1864 – December 19, 1915) was a German psychiatrist and neuropathologist and a colleague of Emil Kraepelin. Alzheimer is credited with identifying the first published case of “presenile dementia”, which Kraepelin would later identify as Alzheimer’s disease.
In 1901, Dr. Alzheimer observed a patient at the Frankfurt Asylum named Auguste Deter. The 51-year-old patient had strange behavioral symptoms, including a loss of short-term memory. This patient would become his obsession over the coming years. In April 1906, Mrs Deter died and Alzheimer had the patient records and the brain brought to Munich where he was working at Kraepelin’s lab. With two Italian physicians, he used the staining techniques to identify amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. A speech given on 3 November 1906 was the first time the pathology and the clinical symptoms of presenile dementia were presented together. Through extremely fortunate circumstances the original microscope preparations on which Alzheimer based his description of the disease were rediscovered some years ago in Munich and his findings could thus be reevaluated.
Since German was the lingua franca of science (and especially of psychiatry) at that time, Kraepelin’s use of Alzheimer’s disease in a textbook made the name famous. By 1911, his description of the disease was being used by European physicians to diagnose patients in the US.