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Wilhelm Heinrich Erb: Wikis


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Wilhelm Heinrich Erb

Wilhelm Heinrich Erb (30 November 1840 – 29 October 1921) was a German neurologist who was a native of Winnweiler, Rhineland-Palatinate.


Academic career

In 1864 he received his medical degree from the University of Heidelberg, and for several years was an assistant to pathologist Nikolaus Friedreich (1825-1882) at Heidelberg. As a young man, he also worked for a period of time under Ludwig von Buhl (1816-1880) in Munich. In 1880 Erb attained the chair of special pathology at the University of Leipzig, where he was also apppointed head of its policlinic. In 1883 he succeeded Friedreich at the University of Heidelberg, where he worked until his retirement in 1907. Neurologists Ernst Julius Remak (1849-1911) and Max Nonne (1861-1959) were two of his better known students.

Neurological research

Erb began his medical career in the fields of toxicology and histology, but later his interest switched to neurology, of which he became one of the 19th century's leading neurologists. He extensively used electrodiagnostic testing and demonstrated heightened motor nerve sensitivity in tetanus. He is also credited with popularizing the reflex hammer for use in neurological examinations.

He made early observations associated with syphilis and tabes dorsalis (nerve fiber and nerve cell degeneration). In his research of tabes dorsalis he tried to find the link between this condition and syphilis. He also made contributions in his research of poliomyelitis, claudication intermittens, and progressive muscular atrophy.

He was the author of over 250 medical works, including Handbuch der Elektrotherapie (Textbook on Electrotherapy), and an important study on spinal paralysis. In 1878 Erb described myasthenia gravis, which is sometimes referred to as the "Erb-Goldflam disease" (named along with neurologist Samuel Goldflam). Myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular disorder that leads to fatigue and muscle weakness.

Associated eponyms

Selected publications

  • Zur Pathologie and pathologische Anatomie peripherischer Paralysen, (Pathology and Pathological Anatomy of Peripheral Paralysis), 1867/1868
  • Spastische Spinalparalyse, (Spastic Spinal Paralysis), 1875
  • Handbuch der Krankheiten der peripheren cerebrospinalen Nerven (Textbook concerning Disorders of the Peripheral Cerebro-spinal Nerves), 1874
  • Handbuch der Elektrotherapie, (Textbook of Electrotherapy), 1882




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