Alzheimer vs. Alzheimer's - What's in an apostrophe

There are several dementia organisations worldwide, most of which have ‘Alzheimer’s’ or ‘dementia’ in their title. However, here at Alzheimer Scotland, we have dropped the apostrophe and chosen to name ourselves after Mr Alzheimer himself.

Who was Alois Alzheimer?

In November 1906, clinical psychiatrist, Alois Alzheimer presented his landmark discovery of ‘an unusual disease of the human cortex’ at the 37th Meeting of South-West German Psychiatrists in Tubingen. During his presentation, he described a 51-year-old woman, Auguste Deter, whose case he had followed from admission until her death. Deter had been admitted to hospital for paranoia, sleep and memory disturbance, aggression, and confusion. Alzheimer was particularly fascinated by distinctive plaques and neurofibrillary tangles which he discovered in her brain. Alzheimer supported Deter throughout her stay in hospital, going the extra mile to ensure she could stay there as long as possible.

Unfortunately, when he presented these findings to his peers, the response was disappointing. But his supervisor, Emil Kraepelin, recognised the value of Alzheimer’s discovery. Despite the unenthusiastic response from fellow scientists, Kraepelin named this particular collection of symptoms ‘Alzheimer’s disease’ and described them as such in the 3rd edition of his text ‘Psychiatrie’ in 1910.

Nowadays, Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed largely in the same way as it was in the early 20th century. Alois Alzheimer’s discovery paved the way for the diagnosis and, subsequently, the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. And by losing the apostrophe in ‘Alzheimer Scotland’, we pay tribute to the man, rather than the disease.