Berger, Hans

Berger, Hans
   The inventor of electroencephalography (EEG), Berger was born in Coburg in northern Germany, his father the chief physician of the local hospital. In 1897, he wrote his state exam in medicine in Jena (pronounced YAY-na), the last of the medical schools at which he had studied, remaining thereafter. He finished his Habilitation in 1901 and by 1919 had become Otto Binswanger’s (1852–1929) successor as professor of psychiatry. He was dismissed in 1938, retreated to a small sanatorium in Bad Blankenburg, and committed suicide in 1941 in an episode of depression. It had been Berger’s hope that the "psychic energy" of the brain would permit him to measure its activity with a string galvanometer, although the idea aroused the derision of his colleagues. In fact, he could record through the intact skull electrical changes that take place in cerebral activity. His classic description of EEG, "On the Electroencephalogram in Man," appeared in 1929 in the Archive of Psychiatry and Nervous Diseases (Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten), followed thereafter by a long series of articles on the interpretation and administration of EEG. The "third communication" in 1931 in the Archiv für Psychiatrie was about changes in EEG induced by drugs and laid the basis for the science of pharmaco-EEG. His student Kurt Kolle (1898–1975) judged Berger, next to Emil Kraepelin and Ernst Kretschmer, to be among the three most famous German psychiatrists in the world. EEG represents the first procedure to "objectivize" the mind, the goal of the intensely biologically oriented Berger. In practical terms, Berger was the first to measure the electrical activity of the brain.

Edward Shorter. 2014.

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