Wilhelm Heinrich Erb

Wilhelm Heinrich Erb (1840-1921) was a German neurologist.

Erb was influential not only through his description of classic brachial plexus palsy involving the superior (or upper) roots, but also by his indelible contributions to our understanding of peripheral nerve physiology, deep tendon reflexes, and the muscular dystrophies.

In 1891 founded the journal Deutsche Zeitschrift für Nervenheilkunde with Friedrich Schultze, Adolf von Strümpell and Ludwig Lichtheim

Reflex testing became common after Erb and Westphal simultaneously discovered the value of muscle stretch reflexes in 1875

  • Born November 30, 1840 in Winnweiler
  • Honorary president of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Nervenärzte (Society of German Neurologists)
  • Died October 29, 1921 Heidelberg

Medical Eponyms

Erb Palsy (Erb–Duchenne palsy)

Erb-Charcot paralysis

Erb-Westphal symptom

Erb scapulohumeral dystrophy

Erb phenomenon

Erb reflex (biceps femoris reflex)

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)


Although the deep tendon reflexes were first introduced simultaneously into the medical literature by Erb (1875) and Westphal (1875), there is some evidence that the knee jerk response was well known to laymen prior to that time.

Major Publications



Eponymous terms

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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