Carl Wernicke

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Carl Wernicke
C. Wernicke.jpg
Born15 May 1848
Died15 June 1905 (aged 57)
Alma materUniversity of Breslau
Known forWernicke's aphasia, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
Scientific career
FieldsPsychiatry, neurology
InstitutionsCharité, University of Breslau, University of Halle
InfluencesTheodor Meynert

Carl (or Karl)[a] Wernicke (/ˈvɛərnɪkə, -ki/; German: [ˈvɛɐ̯nɪkə]; 15 May 1848 – 15 June 1905) was a German physician, anatomist, psychiatrist and neuropathologist. 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 (a.k.a. Wernicke's Speech Area) has been named after the scientist.


Wernicke was born in Tarnowitz, a small town in Upper Silesia, Prussia,[2] now Tarnowskie Gory, Poland.[3] He received "his secondary education at the gymnasium in Oppeln".[4]

After he earned his medical degree at the University of Breslau (1870), he worked in Breslau at Allerheiligen Hospital as an assistant to an ophthamology professor Ostrid Foerster for six months. After serving some time as an army surgeon, he returned to the hospital and worked in the psychiatric department under Professor Heinrich Neumann,[3] who later sent him to Vienna for six months to study with neuropathologist Theodor Meynert,[5][4] who would have a profound influence upon Wernicke's career.[citation needed]

Wernicke died in 1905 due to injuries suffered from a bicycle accident in the Thuringian Forest.[6]


Wernicke served in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 as an army surgeon.[2] From 1876 to 1878, Wernicke 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 published numerous articles.[5] In 1885, he succeeded his mentor Professor Neumann and served as associate professor of neurology and psychiatry at Breslau and became head of the University Hospital's Department of Neurology and Psychiatry.[5] In 1890 he attained the chair at Breslau, later performing similar functions at University of Halle in 1904, heading its Psychiatry and Neurology Clinic.[2]

Studies in aphasia[edit]

Wernicke's area animation

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.[7][8]



In 1897, with Theodor Ziehen (1862-1950), he founded the journal Monatsschrift für Psychiatrie und Neurologie.[6]

Principal written works by Wernicke include:

  • Der aphasische Symptomencomplex. Eine psychologische Studie auf anatomischer Basis [The aphasic symptom complex: a psychological study from an anatomical basis]; Breslau, M. Crohn und Weigert, 1874.
  • Lehrbuch der Gehirnkrankheiten : für Aerzte und Studirende [Textbook of brain diseases: for doctors and students], 1881.
  • Über hemiopische Pupillenreaktion [On hemianopsic pupillary response], in Fortschritte der Medicin, 1883, 1: 49–53.[13]
  • Grundriss der Psychiatrie in klinischen Vorlesungen [Foundation of psychiatry in clinical lectures], 1894.
  • Atlas des Gehirns; Schnitte durch das menschliche Gehirn in photographischen Originalen [Atlas of the brain; sections of the human brain from photographic originals], 1897.
  • Krankenvorstellungen aus der psychiatrischen klinik in Breslau [Ideas on illness from the psychiatric clinic in Breslau], 1899.
  • Eggert, Gertrude H. (1977). Wernicke's works on aphasia: A sourcebook and review. Mouton. ISBN 9789027979858.


  1. ^ His first name has long appeared in print in both the Karl and Carl spelling variants (see Charles).[1]


  1. ^ Google Ngram Viewer, "Carl Wernicke" + "Karl Wernicke", 1800-2010, retrieved 2013-10-11.
  2. ^ a b c "Carl Wernicke: Biography". New Taipei City, Taiwan: Fu Jen Catholic University. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Carl Wernicke". Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  4. ^ a b Duchan, Judy. "Carl Wernicke". A History of Speech - Language Pathology. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  5. ^ a b c Keyser, Antoine (1994). "Carl Wernicke". In Elling, Paul (ed.). Reader in the History of Aphasia: From Franz Gall to Norman Geschwind. John Benjamins Publishing. ISBN 9789027218933.
  6. ^ a b "Carl Wernicke". Who Named It.
  7. ^ "Superior Temporal Gyrus". DNA Learning Center.
  8. ^ "Types of Aphasia". Atlanta Aphasia Association. Archived from the original on 2013-05-20. Retrieved 2013-06-12.
  9. ^ Heinrichs, R. Walter. In Search of Madness: Schizophrenia and Neuroscience. online at Google Books.
  10. ^ "Wernicke's aphasia". Who Named It.
  11. ^ Truedsson, Mikael; Ohlsson, Bodil; Sjöberg, Klas (1 May 2002). "Wernicke's Encephalopathy Presenting With Severe Dysphagia: A Case Report". Alcohol and Alcoholism. Medical Council on Alcohol; Oxford University Press. 37 (3): 295–296. doi:10.1093/alcalc/37.3.295. PMID 12003921. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
  12. ^ "Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome". MedLine Plus. US: National Institutes of Health.
  13. ^ a b "Wernicke's pupillary reaction". Who Named It.