Robert Wartenberg and the American Academy of Neurology

Robert Wartenberg (1887–1956) was born in Grodno (in present-day Belarus) and received his medical degree in Germany in 1919. He enjoyed a productive career at the University of Freiburg until 1935, when he fled Nazi Germany for the United States. Bernard Sachs, with whom he had worked during a Rockefeller fellowship in 1926, helped him secure a position at the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco in 1936. He was popular with students there as his sizeable personality translated into an engaging classroom style, but that same personality could create friction with colleagues. Following World War II, neurology as a specialty was growing and establishing its place in the medical landscape. With this goal in mind, A.B. Baker and other young neurologic leaders formed the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in 1948 as an inclusive professional society. Baker recruited Wartenberg to join, he agreed, and immediately provided his own critiques on the organization. Wartenberg’s standing in the academic community combined with his strong personality would serve Baker well as Wartenberg shielded the young AAN leadership from potential retribution. He was especially invested in ensuring the Academy had a journal as a means of development, and the journal Neurology® was born. Wartenberg died on November 16, 1956, and was honored for his service to the Academy with the Robert Wartenberg Memorial Lecture, which stands today as one of the principal events at the Annual Meeting.

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