Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 405–413 | Cite as

Researching Dementia in Imperial Germany: Alois Alzheimer and the Economies of Psychiatric Practice

  • Eric J. Engstrom
Original Paper


In the writings of Alois Alzheimer and many of his contemporaries, complaints abounded about psychiatric hospitals not only failing to appreciate the importance of senile dementia, but also inhibiting scientific research into the nature and causes of the disorder. This article exploits these discontents in order to examine what Alzheimer and others thought to be optimal conditions for psychiatric research on dementia. It first analyzes the various institutional contexts in which Alzheimer worked during his career (especially in Frankfurt and Munich). It then traces some of the administrative and diagnostic practices that were deployed to enhance the conditions for his clinical and pathoanatomic research. Finally, it reflects on the implications of these practices for psychiatric care and patient experience.


Alois Alzheimer History Dementia Research practices Psychiatric hospitals 



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for the History of MedicineZHGB (Humboldt University – FU Berlin)BerlinGermany

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