Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt
|Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt|
Creutzfeldt, c. 1920
|Born||June 2, 1885
Harburg upon Elbe, Hamburg, Germany.
|Died||December 30, 1964 (aged 79)
|Known for||Research of brain diseases|
Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt was born into a medical family in Harburg, which was incorporated into Hamburg in 1937. In 1903, at the age of 18, he was drafted into the German army and spent his service stationed in Kiel. Afterwards, he attended the School of Medicine of the Universities of University of Jena and University of Rostock, receiving his doctorate at the latter in 1909. Part of his practical training was undertaken at St. Georg – Hospital in Hamburg. After qualification he sought adventure as a ship's surgeon, voyaging the Pacific Ocean, taking the opportunity to study local crafts, linguistics, and tropical plants.
After returning to Germany, Creutzfeldt worked at the Neurological Institute in Frankfurt am Main, at the psychiatric-neurological clinics in Breslau, Kiel and Berlin, and at the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Psychiatrie in Munich. He was habilitated at Kiel in 1920, and in 1925 became Extraordinarius of psychiatry and neurology. In 1938 he was appointed professor and director of the university psychiatric and neurological division in Kiel. He helped to recognise a neurodegenerative disease, with Alfons Maria Jakob, Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease in which the brain tissue develops holes and takes on a sponge-like texture. It is now known it is due to a type of infectious protein called a prion. Prions are misfolded proteins which replicate by converting their properly folded counterparts.
Creutzfeldt was 54 years old when the Second World War broke out. He was unmoved by the Nazi regime and was able to save some people from death in concentration camps and also managed to rescue almost all of his patients from being murdered under the Nazi Action T4 euthanasia program, an unusual event since most mental patients identified by T4 personnel were gassed or poisoned at separate euthanasia clinics such as Hadamar Euthanasia Centre. During the war, bombing raids destroyed his home and clinic.
After the war he was director of the University of Kiel for six months, before being dismissed by the British occupation forces. His efforts to rebuild the university caused a series of conflicts with the British because he wanted to allow more former army officers to study there. In 1953 he moved on to Munich to work on scientific research commissioned by the Max Planck Society.
He was married to Clara Sombart, a daughter of Werner Sombart. They had five children, among them Otto Detlev Creutzfeldt and Werner Creutzfeldt (1924–2006), a renowned German Internist. He died in 1964 in Munich.
- Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, a subacute spongiform encephalopathy caused from prions involving the cerebral cortex, the basal ganglia and the spinal cord.
- Adrenoleukodystrophy, a rare demyelination disorder also known as Siemerling-Creutzfeldt Disease causing progressive brain damage, adrenal failure, and eventually death.