Franz Seitelberger, MD

Franz Seitelberger, MD
Member Since 1971
Vienna, Austria
Date of Death: November 2, 2007

Dr. Franz Seitelberger died on November 2, 2007 in Vienna, Austria, after a long and severe illness.

Dr. Seitelberger was born in Vienna, Austria on December 4, 1916. He received his MD degree from Vienna University School of Medicine in 1940, and started his medical career in various Austrian neurologic hospitals. In 1950 he was registered as a neurologist and psychiatrist. He later worked at the Neurological (Obersteiner) Institute of Vienna University School of Medicine, then headed by Hans Hoff, and in 1953, at the Department of neuropathology of the Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research in Giessen, Germany. During this period, he developed a special interest in diffuse sclerosis, neuroaxonal dystrophy, and other neurodegenerative and metabolic disorders. He received his PhD degree in neurology, neuroanatomy, and neuropathology in 1954. He was appointed extraordinary professor in 1958 and became director of the Obersteiner Institute in 1959. Until his retirement in 1987, he remained director of this important research institution, which is now the Clinical Institute of Neurology of the Medical University of Vienna. In 1960 Dr. Seitelberger spent several months as a visiting scientist at the National Institute for Neurological Diseases and Blindness in Bethesda, MD, where he worked with Igor Klatzo on brain edema. In 1964, Dr. Seitelberger was appointed Full Professor of Neurology at Vienna University School of Medicine.

In 1961, Acta Neuropathologica was founded as the organ of the Commissions (later Research Groups) of Neuropathology, Comparative Neuropathology, and Neurooncology of the World Federation of Neurology (WFN). Franz Seitelberger, one of the founders, was the first Managing Editor of this prestigious journal, devoted to the promotion of further development in neuropathology and related fields of the neurosciences. From 1959 to 1970 Dr. Seitelberger was Secretary-General of the Research Groups for Neuropathology of the WFN and in 1964 he founded the Austrian Research Group, later known as Society of Neuropathology whose President he was until 1986. In 1965 he became a scientific member of the Max Planck Society for the Promotion of Science, and since 1966 he was a member of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO). In 1968 he was awarded membership in the German Society of Natural Scientists Leopoldina. In 1970 he was elected a full member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. From 1970 to 1974 he was President of the Austrian Society of Neurology and Psychiatry, from 1973 to 1984 of the International Society for the Research of the Vegetative Nervous System and from 1974 to 1978 of the International Society of Neuropathology (ISN). In 1974/1975 Dr. Seitelberger was elected Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Vienna University, from 1975 to 1977 he was Rector magnificus (Rektor) and Prorector of the University of Vienna, (1977-1978) during an extremely difficult period of administration of the new university organization law. In 1984-1985 Dr. Seitelberger was a scholar of the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD.

Dr. Seitelberger had a wide range of scientific interests, covering many areas of clinical and basic neuropathology. His description of infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy (Seitelberger’s disease) is a seminal work, and his research on rare neurological disorders, such as connatal Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease and Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease are to be emphasized.

Dr. Seitelberger was elected honorary member of the American, British, German and Japanese Associations of Neuropathology, and the American, French and Polish Societies of Neurology. In acknowledgement of his many accomplishments he received the Honorary Medal in Gold from the Federal Capital of Vienna in 1986. In 1989 Dr. Seitelberger was awarded the Order of the Holy Treasure with star, gold and silver rays, one of the highest decorations of the Japanese empire.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Erika Seitelberger, two daughters, a son and seven grandchildren. His memory will be cherished by all who had the privilege to be close to him.

Adapted with permission:
Jellinger KA. In memoriam: Franz Seitelberger (1916-2007). Acta Neuropathol. 2008;115:157-158.
Photo courtesy Dr. Kurt A. Jellinger
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