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Alfons Maria Jakob

Born  1884
Died  1931

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German neurologist, born July 2, 1884, Aschaffenburg am Main, Bavaria; died oktober 17, 1931, Hamburg.

Biography of Alfons Maria Jakob

Alfons Maria Jakob was the son of a shopkeeper. As a boy he looked after the shop and is said to have increased its profitability by raising the prices of the goods. He studied medicine in Munich, Berlin, and Strassburg, and obtained his doctorate in Strassburg in 1908. After being approbiert in 1909, he commenced clinical work under the psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin (1856-1926) and did laboratory work with Franz Nissl (1860-1919) and Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915) in Munich.

In 1911 he went to Hamburg to work with Theodor Kaes (1852-1913) and became head of the laboratory of anatomical pathology at the psychiatric State Hospital Hamburg-Friedrichsberg. Following the death of Kaes in 1913, Jakob in 1914 succeeded him as prosector of the psychiatric clinic Hamburg-Friedrichsberg.

After serving in the German army in World War I, he returned to Hamburg and climbed the academic ladder. He was habilitated in neurology in 1919 and in 1924 became professor of neurology.

Under Jakob’s guidance the department grew rapidly. He had a large private practice and worked with the Hamburg neurologist Max Nouma. He made notable contributions to knowledge on concussion and secondary nerve degeneration and rapidly became a doyen of neuropathology.

Jakob published five monographs and more than 75 papers. His neuropathological studies contributed greatly to the delineation of several diseases, including multiple sclerosis and Friedreich’s ataxia. He first recognised Alper’s disease, and accounts of this were published by three of his students, Souza (Madrid), Freedom (Baltimore), and Bernard Jacob Alpers (born 1900) in Philadelphia.

Jakob was a noted teacher and his laboratory attracted postgraduates from Japan, Russia and Portugal and Italy as well as the U.S.A. He accumulated immense experience in neurosyphilis, having a 200-bedded ward devoted exclusively to that disorder.

Jakob made a lecture tour of the U.S.A. and South-America where he wrote a paper on the neuropathology of yellow fever. His productivity was remarkable for one in private practice, in particular as he suffered from chronic osteomyelitis, contracted in 1924, for the last 7 years of his life. This eventually caused a retroperitoneal abscess and paralytic ileus from which he died following operation.

We thank Tim Schumann for correcting an error.


  • Die extrapyramidalen Erkrankungen.
    In: Monographien aus dem Gesamtgebiete der Neurologie und Psychiatrie, volume 37, Berlin, 1923.
  • Normale und pathologische Anatomie und Histologie des Grosshirns.
    Separate printing of Handbuch der Psychiatrie. Leipzig and Vienna, 1927-1928.
  • Das Kleinhirn.
    In: Handbuch der mikroskopsichen Anatomie, Berlin, 1928, 4: 1.
  • Die Syphilis des Gehirns und seiner Häute.
    In: Oswald Bumke (1877-1950), publisher: Handbuch der Geisteskrankheiten. Berlin, 1930; 11.

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