Augusta Marie Dejerine-Klumpke
Biography of Augusta Marie Dejerine-Klumpke
An American in Paris
Augusta Marie Klumpke was the daughter a prominent businessman. Her parents were separated, and in 1871 the mother moved to Germany with her six children. Two years later they moved to Geneva, where Augusta attended tutorials for girls as well as courses in chemistry and the natural sciences at the academy of Lausanne. Augusta wanted to study medicine but, since there was no faculty of medicine in Lausanne, the family moved to Paris, where Madeleine Brès in 1875, as the first woman in France, had been created a doctor of medicine
Despite the resistance of the dean of the faculty, Alfred Vulpian (1826-1887), Augusta was able to enter the study. In 1882 she won entrance to an externship, a hospital position without residence at the hospital. During her second and third year Augusta was connected to Vulpian's clinic. It was only due to intervention by minister of education, the physiologist Paul Bert (1830-1886), that Augusta in 1887 became the first woman in France to be appointed interne des hôpitaux. She received her doctor's degree in 1889 with the thesis Des polynévrites en général et des paralysies et atrophies saturnines en particulier - a 295 page work.
One of those who had noticed Klumpke's outstanding abilities while still a student, was Jules Dejerine, who wrote of her: "Elle a toutes les qualités possibles". They married in 1886. The marriage was to become the beginning of a unique cooperation in neurological research, not unlike the equally unique partnership of Cécile (1875-1962) and Oskar Vogt (1870-1959). Cécile Vogt met her future husband when he worked with the Dejerines in Paris.
Augusta Dejerine-Klumpke's participation in her husband's writings was important, but mostly anonymous. She was a skilled illustrator, drew up schematic diagrams and showed unexampled dexterity when slicing microscopic preparations from the central nervous system. Under her own name and with her colleagues she published a large number of neurological articles.
During the First World War and subsequent following years she was a pioneer in the treatment and rehabilitation of the large number of soldiers afflicted by wounds of the nervous system and especially of the spinal cord.
After the death of her husband Augusta Dejerine-Klumpke worked with her daughter and son in law, Étienne Sorrel, with the establishment of the Musée Dejerine with a laboratory and a library for the keeping of the scientific remains of the couple.
In 1913 Augusta Dejerine-Klumpke was made a chevalier of the Légion d'honneur, in 1921 an officier. She died on November 5, 1927. She rests besides her husband at the Père Lachaise churchyard.