gms | German Medical Science

68th Annual Meeting of the German Society of Neurosurgery (DGNC)
7th Joint Meeting with the British Neurosurgical Society (SBNS)

German Society of Neurosurgery (DGNC)

14 - 17 May 2017, Magdeburg

Otfrid Foerster's School: The influence of surgical neurology on the development of neurosurgery in Germany

Meeting Abstract

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  • Ulrike Eisenberg - Neurochirurgische Klinik, Klinikum Barnim, Werner Forßmann Krankenhaus, Eberswalde, Deutschland

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgie. Society of British Neurological Surgeons. 68. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Neurochirurgie (DGNC), 7. Joint Meeting mit der Society of British Neurological Surgeons (SBNS). Magdeburg, 14.-17.05.2017. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2017. DocDI.04.01

doi: 10.3205/17dgnc198, urn:nbn:de:0183-17dgnc1980

Published: June 9, 2017

© 2017 Eisenberg.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. See license information at



Objective: Historical analysis of the influence of Otfrid Foerster’s (1873-1941) school on the establishment of (post-war) German neurosurgery.

Methods: Research and review of documents of several archives as well as of the literature on the history of the neurosciences and of Foerster’s and his students’ publications, with the analysis of their main topics of research and their way of combining neurology, neuroanatomy, neuroradiology and neurosurgery.

Results: Otfrid Foerster was the first German neurologist who in 1921 got a ‘personal’ chair for neurology in Breslau. A master of clinical and pathophysiological correlation, he founded a school of clinical, but also surgical neurology. He maintained a wide international network, was visited by neurosurgeons and neurologists from all over the world, and in 1937, he became “Member Emeritus” of the British Association of Neurological Surgeons. In this year, Wilhelm Tönnis (1898-1978) in Berlin and Foerster in Breslau hosted the 22nd meeting of the Society of the British Neurological Surgeons. The German Foerster School, mainly represented by Arist Stender (1903-1975, Berlin), Helmut Penzholz (1913-1985, Berlin and Heidelberg), Ernst Klar (1909-1967, Heidelberg), Hans Kuhlendahl (1910-1992, Düsseldorf), and Friedrich Wilhelm Kroll (1903-?, Detmold), played an important role in the establishment of neurosurgery in post-war Germany. Almost all of them were among the first German full professors for neurosurgery. And several of Foerster’s ‘grandchildren’ got leading positions in neurology, as Hans Schliack (1919-2008, Berlin), in neuroradiology, as Sigurd Wende (1924-1991), or in neurosurgery, as Arno Schulze (1919-2012, Siegen), Volker Sturm (*1943, Köln), Kurt Piscol (*1932, Bremen) and Thomas Grumme (1938-2007, Augsburg), to name just a few of them. However, German neurology and neurosurgery lost some of Foerster’s gifted students who were expelled by Nazi Germany. Among them were Ludwig Guttmann (1899-1980) who became famous for his revolutionary therapy of paraplegic patients and as founder of the Paralympics, Carl Felix List (1902-1968) who was one of the first who introduced angiography to the United States, or Alice Rosenstein (1898-1991) who emigrated to New York, as the first woman worldwide working in neurosurgery.

Conclusion: Meanwhile, the influence of Foerster’s school is decreasing, but we still find its traces in modern German neurosurgery, neurology, and neuroradiology.