Arnold Pick’s Disease

Neuro_Nerds.jpgPick’s Disease is a rare and fatal degenerative disease of the nervous system. Clinically there are major overlaps with Alzheimer’s presenile dementia.

Arnold Pick was born of German-Jewish parents in a village called Velke Mezirici (Gros-Meseritsch) in Moravia. He studied medicine at Vienna and as a student was assistant to the neurologist Theodor Hermann Meynert (1833-1892). He obtained his doctorate in 1875 and subsequently was assistant to Alexander Karl Otto Westphal (1863-1941) in Berlin, at the same time as Karl Wernicke (1848-1905) worked in that unit. All three of them influenced Pick’s work on aphasia. Late 1875 Pick left Berlin for the position as second physician in the Grossherzogliche Oldenburgische Irrenheilanstalt in Wehnen. This institution later played a disreputable part in the German politics of euthanasia, which began in the 1920s and culminated with mass murders and sterilisations of the “racially inferior” and “unworthy lives”.

Pick undertook extensive pathological studies of patients with neuropsychiatric diseases, and his work on the cortical localization of speech disturbances and other functions of the brain won him international acclaim. In addition to more than 350 publications, many of them on apraxia and agrammatism, Pick wrote a textbook on the pathology of the nervous system.

Pick’s ability to record the history of a psychotic or even mute patient was legendary. His secretary was a manic-depressive and an inmate of the asylum in which he worked.

Pick collected an enormous library which gave him great pleasure. At his home they reached to the ceiling and were piled on the floor. When he started on a vacation, some volumes of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Thomas Carlyle went into the large case of medical books. He was also a great music lover.

Arnold Pick died of septicaemia in 1924, 73 years old, following a bladderstone-operation.

Article excerpted from

Tony Brown, BA, EMT

Tony Brown, BA, EMT, graduated cum laude from Harvard University. He served as an EMT in the US Army stationed in Germany.
See All Posts By The Author