Nikolaus Friedreich

Nikolaus Friedreich (1825-1882) was a German neurologist and pathologist.

Friedreich described his eponymous ataxia in a series of papers between 1863 and 1877. He recorded nine members of three families who developed ataxia, dysarthria, sensory loss, muscle weakness, scoliosis, foot deformity, and cardiac symptoms at puberty

  • Born 1 July 1825, Würzburg
  • Died 6 July 1882, Heidelberg

Medical Eponyms
  • Friedreich-Auerbach disease (1863) facial hemi-hypertrophy
  • Friedreich’s ataxia (1877)
  • Friedreich’s disease (1881) sudden brief clonic jerks may be aggravated by excitement and disappear during sleep. Usually affecting single proximal muscle group of the extremities.
  • Friedreich’s sound change (1880) lower pitch of percussion note over cavitating lung lesion during inspiration
  • Friedreich sign – in the presence of a pericardial effusion the sudden collapse of distended neck veins with diastole suggests pericardial tamponade
  • Friedrich-Erb-Arnold syndrome [aka Uehlinger syndrome; Pachydermoperiostosis or primary hypertropic osteoarthropathy] Characterized by pachydermia (thickening of the facial skin and/or scalp); digital clubbing; and periostosis (swelling of periarticular tissue)

Key Medical Attributions

Fun Facts

Medical lineage:

  • His father was Johann Baptist Friedreich (1796–1862) an eminent psychiatrist and member of the ‘somatic school’ of psychiatry in Germany.
  • His grandfather was Nicolaus Anton Friedreich (1761-1836) whose description of idiopathic facial paralysis ‘De paralysi musculorum faciei rheumatici 1797‘ preceded Charles Bell

Major Publications

  • Koeppen AH. Nikolaus Friedreich and degenerative atrophy of the dorsal columns of the spinal cord. J Neurochem. 2013 Aug;126 Suppl 1:4-10 [PMC3721437]
  • Grimm T. [Nikolaus Friedreich, the first Heidelberg “neurologist”]. Fortschr Neurol Psychiatr. 2001 Aug;69 Suppl 1:S8-10. [PMID 11507658]
  • Mahmoudi Nezhad GS, Dalfardi B. Nikolaus Friedreich (1825-1882). J Neurol. 2014 Oct;261(10):2046-7. [PMID 24202788]
  • Schoenberg DG, Schoenberg BS. Eponym: Nikolaus Friedreich and ataxia: tabes or not tabes? South Med J. 1977 Jun;70(6):749. [PMID 327564]

eponymictionary CTA


the person behind the name

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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