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Was Alzheimer Right?


Historical specimens at Carl Zeiss online

Alois Alzheimer’s most well-known contribution to the history of medicine is the histological description of the disease named after him.
2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the pioneering neuropathological observations he made using a “Bierseidelstativ” microscope from Carl Zeiss. To celebrate this occasion, Carl Zeiss is providing access to Alzheimer’s original specimens as virtual objects on the Internet at

Pathologists from around the world now have the opportunity to view in microscopic detail the original research material upon which the discovery of Alzheimer’s disease was based. Selected specimens of two of Alzheimer’s historical cases have now been completely scanned with high-resolution using a MIRAX DESK system from Carl Zeiss MicroImaging GmbH and made available on the Internet. It is now possible to view the original sections of the brain online as if looking at them under a microscope, thus enabling visitors to the website to relive a part of medical history.

Alzheimer published his findings of the first case of a disease that was named after him in 1910. His report described the condition of a 51-year old woman, Auguste D., who suffered from a severe illness of the brain cortex and died following several years of dementia. Neurologists had long suspected that she was suffering from a rare metabolic disorder called metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD) and not Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s long-forgotten original specimens were rediscovered in 1992 in the basements of the University of Munich and reexamined. The analysis of the tissue samples of Alzheimer’s first patient by the Max Planck Institute for Neuropathology in Martinsried, Germany showed no evidence of MLD. However, the cortex exhibits the two classic pathological signs of Alzheimer’s – neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques.

Alois Alzheimer was born on June 14, 1864, in Marktbreit am Main, Germany and died on December 19, 1915, in Breslau (now Wrocław, Poland).


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