Cécile Vogt (1875 - 1962)

Cécile Vogt-Mugnier (1875 – 1962) was a French neuropathologist.

A pioneering woman in medicine and especially in brain research, Vogt-Mugnier contributed substantially to the elucidation of the cellular structure of the brain; clinical and comparative neuroanatomy and its functional interpretation; Reizphysiologie (stimulus physiology); and genetic research based on evolutionary biology.

Cécile Vogt collaborated scientifically with her husband Oskar (1870-1959) from 1899 to 1959. The two played a key role in localising brain research with studies on brain cytoarchitectonic combined with electrical stimulation led to a major progress on functional anatomy of the brain. They established the world’s largest interdisciplinary brain research institute in the 1930s (Kaiser Wilhelm Institute für Hirnfirschung), the forerunner of the Institute for Brain Research of the German Max Planck Society.

The Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine has established the Cécile Vogt Programme  designed to ‘promote the scientific careers of women and enhance the number of successful female candidates in high-ranking positions’.

In the 1920s, she asserted publicly that nothing in her research supported a difference between the brains of men and women. But despite an illustrious research career, her contribution to neurology is all too often overlooked and overshadowed by that of her husband.

  • Born Augustine Marie Cécile Mugnier on March 27, 1875 in Annecy (Haut Savoie), France
  • 1898 – Birth of first daughter Claire
  • 1899 – Married Oskar Vogt (1870–1959) who was a German neurologist five years her senior, Oskarhad built up a successful practice as a psychotherapist and had developed a keen interest in the neuroanatomical basis of psychological phenomena. Oskar adopted Claire and the couple had two girls of their own; Marthe Vogt (1903–2003), physician and neuropharmacologist internationally recognized expert; and Marguerite Vogt (1913–2007), geneticist and a doctor of medicine
  • 1900 – Medical doctorate. She was working under Pierre Marie at the Bicetre Hospital. She also completed a dissertation in neuroanatomy – Thèse: Etude sur la myélinisation des hémisphères cérébraux
  • 1919-1937 – Abteilungsleiter (department head) at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute für Hirnfirschung. This was to be Cécile’s only paid position throughout her 60 year career. For most of her life, however, she worked without compensation, and lived on her husband’s earnings. Cécile’s work was integral to that of Oskar, and of the institute as a whole. With a team of female technicians, Cécile began the pain staking process of tracing fibre connections in the brain, archiving thousands of brain slices that would form the basis of the largest collection of human and animal brain slices in the world (now housed in the Cécile and Oskar Institute of Brain Research in Dusseldorf, Germany). In 1937 Oskar was forced by the Nazis to resign from his post of Director of the Institute, where they then moved to Neustadt. Cécile and Oskar continued with their research throughout World War II and, even though they themselves were Nazi targets, they gave shelter and employment to others fleeing persecution. The Vogts remained in Neustadt even after the war ended.
  • 1920 – Cécile and Oskar had to fight for her admission to scientific conferences and she wasn’t awarded her license to practice medicine in Germany until January 6th 1920.
  • 1924 – Co-editor of the Journal für Psychologie und Neurologie (Journal for Psychology and Neurology) along with her husband
  • 1932 – Elected to the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (German National Academy of Sciences) the highest academic distinction given by an institution in Germany with members including 169 Nobel Laureates.
  • 1948 – Late in their career Cécile and Oskar Vogt became pioneers in schizophrenia research. In 1948 they formulated their observations of primary pathological changes in the thalamus of schizophrenics.
  • 1950 – Awarded the National preis der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik along with Oskar and she became a member of the German Academy of Sciences at Berlin.
  • 1954 – Co-editor with Oskar Vogt of Journal für Hirnforschung
  • 1959 – The Vogts founded the Cécile and Oskar Vogt Institute for Brain Research. This was taken over in 1964 by the University of Düsseldorf and remains one of the largest collections of brain slices in the world
  • Honorary doctorates from the University of Freiburg; University of Jena; and Humboldt University of Berlin
  • Only after Oskar’s death in 1959 did Cécile move to Cambridge to live with her daughter Marthe, until her death in 1962
  • Died May 4, 1962 in Cambridge, UK
  • The couple Vogt later received alot of attention through the novel Lenin’s Brain (German1991, English1993) by Tilman Spengler, as Oskar Vogt received the honorary assignment of investigating the brain of Lenin after his death

Medical Eponyms
Vogt-Vogt syndrome [Hammonds disease]

Extrapyramidal disturbance with double sided athetosis occurring in early childhood. Onset is months after birth when complex motor activity develops, such as sitting, standing, and walking. It is characterised by slow, writhing, purposeless movements mainly affecting the hands and face, with forced laughter and crying. Disturbance of posture is mainly contractures in position with flexion of the knees. There is also disturbance of tonus with over stretchable joint. Besides athetosis (without fixed position) spastic and cerebral signs also occur.

Lesions of the midbrain, thalamic nuclei, and internal capsule of the cerebral cortex are the cause of this disorder. Most patients are good-natured and have normal intelligence. Premature infants frequently affected. Both dominant and recessive autosomal types.

Major Publications



Eponymous terms

Graduated from Southampton Medical School in 2017 with BMBS. Working in Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Emergency Department in Perth, Australia.

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 |

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