Aloysius Alzheimer was a German psychiatrist who spent his early career on staff at the city asylum in Frankfurt, Germany.
In 1901, the family of Auguste Deter, a 51-year-old woman who had been displaying odd and concerning behavior, approached him and asked for his help.
The family told Alzheimer that Auguste could not remember things, had become convinced that her husband had been unfaithful to her, and seemed to have difficulty talking and understanding what others were saying.
Do these behaviors sound familiar to you?
Because Alzheimer had never met anyone like Auguste, he wanted to watch her closely. He made careful note of her mental and physical decline which were quite rapid, and upon her death in 1906, he carefully studied her brain.
Alzheimer made some significant findings while analyzing Auguste’s brain. Specifically, he noted the presence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles – the two structures that are considered to be the unmistakable signs of Alzheimer’s disease and remain at the center of Alzheimer’s disease research today.
However, what made Aloysius Alzheimer’s work truly groundbreaking was that he was able to present more than just what he’d found under the microscope; Alzheimer was also able to discuss what he had observed first-hand during his meetings with Auguste. I have no doubt that her family’s accounts offered significant insights too.
This compilation of scientific findings and clinical observations had never been achieved before Alzheimer and ultimately, it was determined that Auguste’s disease should bear his name.