Table 1 shows the range of Gamper’s scientific contributions. His first paper, prepared during his first year as an assistant at the Department of Neuropsychiatry and co-authored with K. Skutetzky, examined cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) changes in patients with syphilis. Several consecutive papers dealt with war-related lesions of the spine and brain. Gamper kept his interest in CSF and in trauma of the central nervous system until his death. In 1923, he published a study on postencephalitic rigidity, his first paper on movement disorders [5, 6].
During the same year, he came to hear about a three month-old girl, with anencephaly, that came to be known as “Gamper’s midbrain-being”. The girl, Nannerl, blind and very weak, had been born on March 8, 1923, as the third illegitimate child of a 27-year-old maidservant . Gamper convinced her mother and the obstetrician in charge of her case that he would take care of the child with all rights and duties. She was brought to him on June 7, 1923, a cold and rainy day. During the following week, Gamper and colleagues made diligent observations on her spontaneous behaviour and carried out a large number of tests, all documented in writing, with numerous photographs and in one of the very first medical films. In his detailed description, Gamper emphasises that the child was treated well and that great efforts were made to keep her warm. However, she developed fever on day 6 and died of pneumonia on day 7 after the transfer (Fig. 1) .
Gamper used a large part of his time at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Psychiatric Research with Walther Spielmeyer for the examination of Nannerl’s brain. The first publication in 1926 with 45 figures was 81 pages long and described the neuroanatomical findings in great detail. A publication on clinical findings with 38 figures and 71 pages followed in the same year. Gamper found that Nannerl’s spontaneous behaviour and reflexes were nearly normal for a child of her age: she slept and woke up, lolled, yawned, suckled, smiled and showed other typical reactions to acoustic, positional and haptic stimuli. On pressing the lower limbs in a supine position, she flexed her trunk (Gamper’s sign, indicative of severe cortical brain damage) [12,13,14].
After his return, Gamper published two papers with Georg Gruber, one on trichinosis and a pivotal study on polioencephalitis haemorrhagica superior in chronic alcoholism, which laid the ground for his subsequent development of the neuropsychiatry of memory problems . Most of the patients died within two weeks of disease onset. Gamper observed that the mamillary bodies were always affected, irrespective of the variable involvement of other brainstem areas. Therefore, he concluded that they must represent essential nodes for memory formation. A lesion of the Corpora mamillaria, which are normally connected with other midbrain, thalamic and neocortical areas, would therefore permit wakeful perception without leading to an increase of experience (“Erlebniszuwachs”) . A number of invited textbook contributions and other influential papers followed.
On September 10, 1928, Morduch Max Halsmann (1880–1928), a 48-year-old, energetic and wealthy Jewish dentist from Riga, fell to his death during an exhausting hiking tour in the Alps he had taken with his son Philipp Halsmann (1906–1979). The circumstances were considered suspicious and additionally were touched by a climate of burgeoning antisemitism. Philipp, who had initially been acting rationally and responsibly, gave confusing evidence while under pressure during the criminal investigation in Innsbruck and at his trial, where he came across as arrogant and was judged to have been the murderer of his father. On October 16, 1928, he was sentenced to 10 years of hard labour. The case gained immense political weight with a wealth of opinions and authorities from all fields of science and society involved [12,13,14].
Gamper was chosen to represent the Innsbruck Medical Faculty at a re-trial in 1929. His testimony had to answer the question whether Philipp Halsmann could have forgotten the exact distance between himself and the victim, when his father had slipped down the slope. Gamper and colleagues opined that this was not possible at all and that the shock and painful experience of seeing his father fall, should have led to an even stronger memory formation. They mentioned repression (“Verdrängung”) as a possible obstacle in the way of proper recall, but such an idea from uninitiated personnel was gracelessly dismissed by Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) himself . Gamper and colleagues further suggested that Philipp might have attacked his father in a rage caused by severe physical exhaustion. During the second trial, the jury followed this interpretation and felt that this was a case of manslaughter rather than murder so that the verdict was reduced to four years of hard labour [16,17,18].
Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein (1879–1955), Thomas Mann (1875–1955) and many others voiced their strong views on “Austria’s Dreyfus Affair”. Philipp Halsmann was pardoned in October 1930 after he had contracted tuberculosis in jail [16, 18]. He was expelled from Austria, befriended the surrealist painter Salvador Dali' (1904–1989) in Paris. Halsmann soon became a world renowned art and fashion photographer for the magazines Vogue and Life, for which he produced 101 covers. Philipp Halsmann gained fame for his portraits, especially for those in which he made the portrayed jump (Marilyn Monroe, the Windsors, Richard Nixon, …). Halsmann also developed a philosophical discipline he frivolously called “jumpology” .
Gamper’s arrival in Prague was delayed due to the Halsmann case and formal issues. There he found a number of experienced colleagues in or associated with the Department, some of them prolific scientists as Bruno Fischer (1888–1972) and Oskar Fischer (1876–1942), Franz T. Münzer (1895–1944), Otto Sittig (1886–1944), and Adalbert Král (1903–1988), his most prolific collaborator. Together with Hedwig Horn (born 1907), Gamper carried out an open label trial with a new animal-tested barbiturate-based sleeping pill (Profundol) on 66 patients with affective disorders, schizophrenia, senile brain diseases, neurosyphilis, postencephalitic and other conditions, all of them suffering from sleeping problems. The results were presented neatly and overall efficacy was seen as favourable.
Gamper was a gifted teacher popular with students and colleagues. He made great efforts to learn the Czech language within a short period of time. He allegedly sent several patients to Vienna for surgical interventions at his own expense. The particular situation in Prague, with one Czech und one German University side by side, caused numerous clinical, psychological, structural and economic problems for anyone involved. It was viewed quite critically by Aubrey Lewis, a prominent visitor in 1937 . Gamper somehow managed to be on good terms with all parties and was hopeful until the end that conditions for the care and science in budding neurology and in neglected psychiatry could be improved [4, 7, 22, 23]. The last papers printed during Gamper’s life dealt with unnatural death due to cerebral concussion and choking [7, 23, 24]. His long second memorandum (Table 1) on the future of the Department of Neuropsychiatry in Prague was rescued from the lake Walchensee and published posthumously .