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Max Bielschowsky

Born  1869
Died  1940

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German neuropathologist, born February 19, 1869, Breslau; died 1940.

Biography of Max Bielschowsky

Max Bielschowsky was born in Breslau, now the Polish city of Wroclaw, where his father was a merchant. He attended the universities of Breslau, Berlin, and Munich, and was conferred doctor of medicine at Munich in 1893.

Bielschowsky, who had been interested in the brain since childhood, now moved quickly in medical circles. He was invited by Ludwig Edinger (1855-1918) to join the staff of the famous Senckenberg Pathologisches Institut in Frankfurt am Main. The institute was then headed by Carl Weigert (1845-1904), by whom he was influenced on staining techniques. From 1896 to 1904 he was assistant to the psychiatrist Emanuel Mendel (1839-1907) in Mendel's laboratory in Berlin, and it was here he began to contribute to neurological literature.

His first work, written with Paul Schuster (1867–), on the histopathology of disseminated sclerosis, appeared in 1896. His fundamental studies on the silver impregnation of nerve fibres led to a new method, replacing Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s (1852-1934) method on which it was based. In 1924, with Stanley Cobb, he applied intravital staining.

In 1904 Bielschowsky joined Oskar Vogt (1870-1959) at the Neurobiologisches Universitäts-Laboratorium in Berlin, where he spent the next 30 years. From 1925 he was scientific member of the institute of brain research at the Kaiser Wilhelm-Gesellschaft. In 1931 the Institute moved to new quarters at Berlin-Buch. However, Bielschowsky had problems working with Oskar Vogt, the director of the institute.

In 1933 he resigned and the following year he worked in the laboratory of the psychiatric clinic of the Utrecht University supported by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation., and in 1935 spent some time at the Cajal Institute in Madrid. He moved back to Berlin in 1936.

In 1939 Bielschowsky moved to London with one of his three sons in 1939, working in the laboratory of professor Green of Sheffield.

The following year he died from a stroke. His ashes are buried in Golders Green Cemetery, next to those of his old friend, Paul Schuster, with whom he had worked in Frankfurt more than 40 years previously.

During his productive career he published more than 180 medical articles and he received recognition by election to the fellowship of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft. In his personal character Bielschowsky was a quiet, intelligent, diligent man.


  • Myelitis und Sehnerventzündung. Berlin, 1901.
  • Die Silberimprägnation der Achsencylinder.
    Neurologisches Zentralblatt, Leipzig, 1902, 21: 579-84.
    Neurologisches Zentralblatt, Leipzig, 1903, 22: 997-1006.
    Bielschowwsky stains.
  • Allgemeine Histologie und Histopathologie des Nervensystems. In: Max Lewandowsky (publisher), Handbuch der Neurologie. Volume 1, Berlin, 1910.
  • Herpes Zoster. In: Max Lewandowsky (publisher): Handbuch der Neurologie. Volume 5, Berlin, 1910.
  • Über spätinfantile familiäre amaurotische Idiotie mit Kleinhirnsymptomen.
    Deutsche Zeitschrift für Nervenheilkunde, 1914, 50: 7-29.
    Bielschowsky’s amaurotic idiocy.
  • Nervengewebe, Morphologie der Ganglienzelle.
  • Zentrale Nervenfazern.
  • Übersicht über den gegenwärtigen Stand der Neuronenlehre und die gegen sie erhobenen Einwände.
    Handbuch der mikroskopischen Anatomie der Menschen. Volume 4, Berlin, 1928.
  • F. H. Lewy:
    Max Bielschowsky. Transactions of the American Neurological Association, New York, 1941, 67: 243-244.
  • B. Ostertag:
    In Memoriam, Max Bielschowsky.
    Deutsche medizinische Wochenshrift, 1959, 84: 765-766.

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