A short history of Alzheimer's disease
Even though the ancient Greeks and Romans knew that old age was sometimes linked with dementia, it was not until the twentieth century that a specific disease was established and a name given to it.
In 1901, Alois Alzheimer, a German psychiatrist, began studying a woman name Auguste Deter. She was admitted to a mental institution after developing dementia despite being in her early fifties, and according to Auguste, was constantly losing herself.
Doctor Alzheimer took a great interest in her condition and recorded what he could. He eventually called her disease the “Disease of Forgetfulness.”
After she passed away, he autopsied her brain and discovered plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. In 1906, he publicly gave his report on her condition. Within five years, other doctors were reporting on the same condition, and were already calling it Alzheimer’s disease.
Originally the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was restricted for those under 65, while over 65 was just called senile dementia, but because the physiological mechanisms were the same regardless of age, in 1977 the term was standardized to cover people of all ages with the same type of degeneration.
In the hundred years since its discovery, many things have been discovered about Alzheimer’s. Those plaque deposits and neurofibrillary tangles, however, have remained a constant, and are still implicated in the development of the disease.