Karl Wernicke (1848 - 1905)

Karl Wernicke (1848-1905) was a German neurologist and psychiatrist.

  • Born on May 15, 1848 in Tarnowitz, Prussia (Tarnowskie Gory, Poland)
  • 1876 – First assistant under Karl Westphal (1833–1890) at the Berlin Charité practising neuropsychiatry
  • 1897 – Founded the journal Monatsschrift für Psychiatrie und Neurologie with Theodor Ziehen (1862-1950)
  • Died on June 15, 1905 Dörrberg im Geratal, Thüringer Wald

Medical Eponyms
Wernicke’s aphasia (1874)

Wernicke’s aphasia is the classical “receptive aphasia”, in distinction to the “expressive aphasia” of Broca, although this terminology is problematic since there are concurrent “expressive” problems in Wernicke’s aphasia (and “receptive” problems in Broca’s aphasia).

Wernicke encephalopathy (Wernicke syndrome) (1881)

Constellation of nystagmus, ophthalmoplegia, cerebellar signs, neuropathy, and inability to record new information (“loss of recent memory”) as a result of thiamine deficiency (secondary to alcoholism and/or starvation). Anatomical changes include bilateral pinhead-sized haemorrhages in the mamillary bodies and in the periventricular and periaqueductal grey matter. [aka Wernicke disease; Wernicke syndrome; polioencephalitis hemorrhagica superior; Meynert amentia, Gayet disease, Gayet-Wernicke syndrome]

Wernicke hemianopic pupil (1883)

Loss of the pupillary reflex when a thin pencil of light is shone exclusively upon the “blind” side of the retina, indicating that the lesion is anterior to the point at which the pupillary fibres leave the optic tract for the superior colliculus, because when the lesion is more posterior, these fibres are spared, and so pupillary constriction still occurs even when the “blind” retina is stimulated.

Wernicke’s cramp (1904)

A rare form of painful local muscle cramp precipitated by precipitated by anxiety or fear. Described by Wernicke in a lecture-demonstration in 1904

Major Publications



Final year MBBS student at Curtin Medical School. Keen interest in internal medicine and neurology, medical education, and integrating specialist healthcare into rural medical practice.

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.