The Link Between Alzheimer’s Research and Black History

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by Ray Burow |

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Solomon Carter Fuller

In the early 1900s, Dr. Alois Alzheimer discovered the disease that bears his name today.

Alzheimer had observed an unusual disease in one of his patients, a woman in her 50s who had memory loss and was plagued by disorientation and hallucinations, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International. She succumbed to the obscure brain disease at the age of 55. A post-mortem revealed brain abnormalities previously only found in elderly people.

Today, “the pathological diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is still generally based on the same investigative methods used in 1906,” Alzheimer’s Disease International noted. In other words, if it hadn’t been for the good doctor, researchers and scientists of today would have to begin at square one.

Though we owe him a great debt of gratitude, many caregivers and patients might be unaware that Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, is named for Dr. Alzheimer. While his contribution to the world may be unknown by the general public, few people are aware of the contribution of Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller to Alzheimer’s research.

First African American psychiatrist

An African-born grandson of slaves, Fuller was a researcher of degenerative brain diseases and the first African American psychiatrist. Fuller worked closely with Alzheimer in Germany, during the early study of the disease, according to the online publication Black Past. As one of five students chosen by Alzheimer, Fuller focused his research at the Royal Psychiatric Hospital at the University of Munich on pathology and specifically neuropathology. After two years in Munich, Fuller returned to the U.S. in 1905 — a year prior to the now-famous lecture by Alzheimer in which he spoke about his discovery.

Fuller continued to study brain pathology and medical symptoms and how they were connected. According to Black Past, “Fuller’s major contribution was to the growing clinical knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Giving credit where it’s due

We salute the invaluable contribution by Alzheimer in discovering this brain disease, along with the impeccable groundwork he conducted that continues to fuel today’s scientific research for a cure.

In celebration of Black History Month, we also salute Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, a medical educator and researcher, psychiatrist, and grandson of medical missionaries, for his contribution to Alzheimer’s research.

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Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.

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