The Long Goodbye

Alois was born in Bavaria in 1864.  His parents were educationally focused, so he was able to receive a good education to become a medical doctor.  His areas of interest were psychiatry and neuropathology.

When he graduated, he began working with the mentally ill.  He met one of the top psychiatrists at the time, and they began a very productive collaboration.  His colleagues were interested in research on the psychosis of senile patients, while Alois was more interested in lab work on senile patients’ brains after their death.

Alois took a special interest in a 91-year-old female patient who had short-term memory loss.  When her husband could no longer afford her care, Alois stepped in to assure he could continue to see to her care.  Five years after Alois began treating her, she died.  In recognition of his support for her, Alois was able to receive her medical records and brain when she died.

An analysis of her brain showed anomalies that Alois felt were relevant to her mental condition.  He published his findings and presented them at a conference on psychiatry.  Unfortunately, the audience had little interest in his work.  They were more interested in the following paper on masturbation.

Years later, his colleague published a book on Presenile and Senile Dementia and devoted a chapter to Alois’ findings which he named Alzheimer’s disease, referring to Alois’ last name.  Alois died at age 51.

Alois Alzheimer’s work in the early 1900s led the way for over a century of study into what has become one of the most difficult diseases to deal with.  While we still don’t know how to prevent the disease-bearing Alois’ name, he started the process of awareness which is critical to establish any medical breakthrough.

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“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”  Mark Twain

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