Walther Spielmeyer

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Walther Spielmeyer (1879-1935)

Walther Spielmeyer (23 April 1879 – 6 February 1935) was a German neuropathologist who was a native of Dessau.


He studied medicine at the University of Halle as a student of Eduard Hitzig (1838-1907). At Halle he was influenced by the work of psychiatrists Karl Heilbronner (1869-1914), Gustav Aschaffenburg (1866-1944) and pathologist Karl Joseph Eberth (1835-1926).[1] In 1906 he relocated to Freiburg as an assistant to Alfred Hoche (1865-1943). At the suggestion of Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926), he succeeded Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915) as director of the Anatomisches Laboratorium der Psychiatrischen und Nervenklivik in Munich. At Munich he worked with Franz Nissl (1860-1919) and Felix Plaut (1877-1940).

In 1928 the Rockefeller Foundation financed the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute with Spielmeyer as director of the Hirnpathologisches Institut. He died of pulmonary tuberculosis on February 6, 1935.[2]


Spielmeyer is remembered for his research of peripheral nervous system injuries as well as his specialized study of disturbed brain function caused by temporary circulation problems.[3] He is credited with making significant contributions involving the function of glia in inflammatory processes and on the pathophysiology of cerebral blood flow in neurological-psychiatric disorders.

He was the author of highly regarded books on the neurohistology and histopathology of the nervous system; "Technik der mikroskopischen Untersuchung des Nervensystems" (1911) and "Histopathologie des Neurvensystems" (1922), the latter work being known for its excellent illustrations.[3] He coined the term "Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease" to refer to a rapidly progressive neurodegenerative disease first described separately by the eponymous German neurologists.[4]

Walther Spielmeyer and his laboratory team at Munich, 1927 (Spielmeyer at center front).

Associated eponym[edit]

Selected writings[edit]

  • Die Trypanosomenkrankheiten und ihre Beziehungen zu den syphilogenen Nervenkrankheiten (Trypanosomiasis and its correlation to syphilitic nerve disorders). Jena, Fischer, 1908.
  • Technik der mikroskopischen Untersuchung des Nervensystems (Microscopic studies of the nervous system). Berlin, Springer, 1911; 4. Aufl., 1930.
  • Die progressive Paralyse. In: Handbuch der Neurologie, Bd. 3; Berlin, 1912.
  • Zur Klinik und Anatomie der Nerven-Schussverletzungen. Berlin, Springer, 1915.
  • Histopathologie des Nervensystems (Histopathology of the nervous system). Erster Band: Allgemeiner Teil. Berlin, J. Springer, 1922.
  • Degeneration und Regeneration am peripherischen Nerven. (Degeneration and regeneration of the peripheral nervous system). Handbuch der normalen und pathologischen Physiologie, Bd. 3; Berlin, 1929.
  • Die Anatomie der Psychosen. (Anatomy of psychosis). Handbuch der Geisteskrankheiten, Bd. 11; Berlin, 1930.