Carl Wernicke

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Carl Wernicke
C. Wernicke.jpg
Born 15 May 1848
Tarnowitz, Upper Silesia, Kingdom of Prussia
Died 15 June 1905 (aged 57)
Gräfenroda, German Empire
Fields Psychiatry, neurology
Institutions Charité, University of Breslau, University of Halle
Alma mater University of Breslau
Known for Wernicke's aphasia, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
Influences Theodor Meynert

Carl or Karl Wernicke (/ˈvɛərnkə/ or /ˈvɛərnki/; German: [ˈvɛʁnɪkə]) (15 May 1848 – 15 June 1905) was a German physician, anatomist, psychiatrist and neuropathologist. His first name has long appeared in print in both the Karl and Carl spelling variants (see Charles).[1] He is known for his influential research into the pathological effects of specific forms of encephalopathy, and study of receptive aphasia, both of which are commonly associated with Wernicke's name and referred to as Wernicke's Encephalopathy and Wernicke's Aphasia, respectively. His research, along with that of Paul Broca, led to groundbreaking realizations of the localization of brain function, specifically in speech. As such, Wernicke's Area (or Wernicke's Speech Area) has been named for the scientist.


He earned his medical degree at the University of Breslau (1870). He later spent six months in Vienna, studying with neuropathologist Theodor Meynert, who would have a profound influence upon Wernicke's career. From 1876 to 1878 he served as a first assistant under Karl Westphal in the clinic for psychiatry and nervous diseases at the Berlin Charité. Afterwards, he founded a private neuropsychiatric practice in Berlin, and from 1885, served as an associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at Breslau. In 1890 he attained the chair at Breslau, later performing similar functions at the University of Halle (1904). He died the following year due to injuries suffered from a bicycle accident in the Thuringian Forest.[2]

Studies in aphasia[edit]

Shortly after Paul Broca published his findings on language deficits caused by damage to what is now referred to as Broca's area, Wernicke began pursuing his own research into the effects of brain disease on speech and language. Wernicke noticed that not all language deficits were the result of damage to Broca's area. Rather he found that damage to the left posterior, superior temporal gyrus resulted in deficits in language comprehension. This region is now referred to as Wernicke's area, and the associated syndrome is known as Wernicke’s aphasia (receptive aphasia), for his discovery.[3][4]



In 1897, with Theodor Ziehen (1862-1950), he founded the journal Monatsschrift für Psychiatrie und Neurologie.[2] Principal written works by Wernicke include:

  • Der aphasische Symptomencomplex. Eine psychologische Studie auf anatomischer Basis; Breslau, M. Crohn und Weigert, 1874. - The aphasic symptom complex: a psychological study from an anatomical basis.
  • Lehrbuch der Gehirnkrankheiten : für Aerzte und Studirende, 1881 - Textbook of brain diseases: for doctors and students.
  • Über hemiopische Pupillenreaktion, in Fortschritte der Medicin, 1883, 1: 49-53. - On hemianopsic pupillary response.[9]
  • Grundriss der Psychiatrie in klinischen Vorlesungen, 1894 - Foundation of psychiatry in clinical lectures.
  • Atlas des Gehirns; Schnitte durch das menschliche Gehirn in photographischen Originalen, 1897 - Atlas of the brain; sections of the human brain from photographic originals.
  • Krankenvorstellungen aus der psychiatrischen klinik in Breslau, 1899 - Ideas on illness from the psychiatric clinic in Breslau.

Books about Carl Wernicke:

  • "Wernicke's works on aphasia : a sourcebook and review" by Gertrude H Eggert, 1977.[10]


  1. ^ Google Ngram Viewer, "Carl Wernicke" + "Karl Wernicke", 1800-2010, retrieved 2013-10-11. 
  2. ^ a b Carl Wernicke @ Who Named It
  3. ^ DNA Learning Center Superior Temporal Gyrus
  4. ^ Atlanta Aphasia Association Typres of aphasia
  5. ^ Google Books In Search of Madness: Schizophrenia and Neuroscience by R. Walter Heinrichs
  6. ^ Wernicke's aphasia @ Who Named It
  7. ^ Oxford Journals Alcohol and Alcoholism Volume 37, Issue 3Pp. 295-296
  8. ^ MedLine Plus Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
  9. ^ a b Wernicke's pupillary reaction @ Who Named It
  10. ^ WorldCat Identities (publications)