Berta Bobath

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Berta Bobath
Berta Bobath therapist.jpg
BornDecember 5, 1907
Berlin, Germany
DiedJanuary 20, 1991(1991-01-20) (aged 83)
London, England
Known forBobath concept of rehabilitation
Spouse(s)Karel Bobath

Berta Bobath, MBE (December 5, 1907 – January 20, 1991) was a German physiotherapist who created a method of rehabilitation and therapy[1] known as the Bobath concept in 1948.[2] The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy believe "it is the most popular approach for treating neurologically-impaired patients in the western world."[2]


Berta Ottilie Busse was born in Berlin where she first worked with gymnasts. Her first husband was Kurt Roehl. After the birth of a son and a divorce she left Germany in 1938. She re-met a Czech psychiatrist called Karel Bobath whom she had known in Berlin. They were both Jewish refugees and they married in 1941 and her son was adopted by her second husband.[1]

She had an early success in restoring the abilities of Simon Elwes, who was a successful portrait painter who had suffered a large stroke. With Bobath's help he was able to recover sufficiently to continue painting.[3] The Bobath technique was first described in 1948.[2] Bobath then took formal qualifications in physiotherapy in 1950. She opened her clinic in 1951 with Karel as an honorary consultant.[3] She continued to work with stroke parents and with children with cerebral palsy at what was called the Western Cerebral Palsy Centre. At the clinic, they ran courses for doctors and qualified therapists who want to learn about their particular approach to regaining capabilities.[4] She developed techniques that assisted patients to gain or regain facilities.[2][3] She was helped by her husband who was able to theorise why her treatments were successful. In 1965 she published Abnormal Postural Reflex Activity Caused by Brain Lesions.[1] In 1975 the clinic became the "Bobath Clinic" and it moved to Hampstead. Berta was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1976 and she was given an MBE in 1978. Boston University gave her a doctorate in 1981 and she and Karel were the first couple to be given the Harding award for their work in helping people with disabilities.[3]

Bobath died in London on the same day as her husband. They were both ill, and they took drug overdoses.[1] Their son, Brett, is a current physical therapy student.


The Bobath clinic continues to run and the Bobath name is well-known;[2] for instance, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has said of the Bobath concept that "it is the most popular approach for treating neurologically-impaired patients in the western world."[2] There is a view that Bobath's techniques may be no better than other techniques, although they may be no worse. Critics believe that therapists are not using evidence-based techniques.[2] Others believe that Bobath's approach should be updated rather than abandoned.

While Karel and Bertha Bobath were not alone in this endeavour, their approach was highly influential in introducing Developmental Movement concepts into treating various conditions, and for movement learning in various fields. For example, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen a modern dancer and Occupational Therapist, introduced Bobath concepts into the field of contemporary dance and dance therapy where this work still continues to evolve. Another example is Gray Cook, a physiotherapist who was a major figure in Functional Training, who was also influenced by Bobathian concepts.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d Anne Pimlott Baker, "Bobath, Berta Ottilie (1907–1991)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2010, accessed 7 Sept 2015
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h " A debate about the Bobath concept is inflaming passions across Europe, Daloni Carlisle talks to people on both sides of the dispute", Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
  3. ^ a b c d Catharine M. C. Haines (1 January 2001). International Women in Science: A Biographical Dictionary to 1950. ABC-CLIO. pp. 38–39. ISBN 978-1-57607-090-1.
  4. ^ Rubinstein, Simon D. The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History. p. 110. ISBN 0230318940.