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Hans-Rudolf Wiedemann (1915 2006).

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ß 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A 143A:112 – 113 (2007)
In Memoriam
Hans-Rudolf Wiedemann (1915–2006)
How to cite this article: Spranger J. 2007. Hans-Rudolf Wiedemann (1915–2006). Am J Med Genet
Part A 143A:112–113.
Hans-Rudolf Wiedemann was born and raised in
the North-German Hansestadt Bremen. After the
early death of his mother, a close relationship
developed between him and his father, a critical
and cosmopolitan medical practitioner and humanitarian, whose deep and long-lasting influence on his
son is literarily documented in their correspondence
during the Hitler regime [Wiedemann, 1988a]. Hans
Rudolf started his medical education in Freiburg,
where he met Hans Spemann, famous zoologist, who
received the Nobel prize in 1935 for his discovery of
the developmental field.
From Freiburg he went to Munich, Hamburg,
Lausanne and finished medical school in Jena. Due
to a refractory intestinal disorder that lasted throughout his life, he was exempted from military service
in World War II and worked as a resident under
Jussuf Ibrahim in the Department of Pediatrics at
the University of Jena. After the end of the war he
accepted an appointment as senior consultant in the
children’s hospital of his hometown Bremen and, in
the fall of 1946, as chief consultant at the Children’s
Hospital of Bonn University directed by Otto Ullrich.
In 1952, at the age of 37 years, he became director of a
large municipal children’s hospital in Krefeld from
where he moved in 1961 to serve as head of the
Children’s Hospital of the University of Kiel in North
Germany until his retirement in 1980.
His scientific career started in 1942 with work on
what is known today as ‘‘hereditary spherocytosis.’’
After his move to Bonn, Otto Ullrich, a fine clinical
geneticist, became his teacher, mentor, and close
friend stimulating and supporting his life-long
interest in constitutional errors of development.
Collaboration between the two men persisted
beyond Ullrich’s life. In 1987, 7 years after his
own retirement, Wiedemann re-studied a patient
described by Ullrich in 1930 with what is now known
as ‘‘Turner syndrome,’’ proved her 45,X constitution
when she was 68 years old, and thus confirmed
graciously that his teacher had described the condition long before Turner [Wiedemann and Glatzl,
Tenaciousness was one of Wiedemann’s characteristics. He never forgot a patient, not only because
of his superb memory and sophisticated, albeit
FIG. 1. Portrait of Hans-Rudolf Weidemann. Reprinted with kind permission
of Springer Science and Business Media, from the European Journal of
Pediatrics 133:75–76, 1980.
sometimes chaotic filing system with meticulously
arranged piles of charts and radiographs, but
also because he established with his patients a
personal relationship of empathy and mutual trust.
Wiedemann was a brilliant clinician with an outstanding power of observation, never missing a
*Correspondence to: Jürgen Spranger, University Kinderklinik, Langenbeckstr. 1, Mainz, Germany 55131.
DOI 10.1002/ajmg.a.31587
American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A: DOI 10.1002/ajmg.a
detail (think of the ear crease in patients with the
EMG syndrome), but never losing or failing to
discern the general pattern. Combining these virtues
with a keen interest for the unusual, strict intellectual
discipline, a Prussian sense of duty, helped by a
classic writer’s dexterity, all spiced by a sound
portion of ambitiousness, led to a large scientific
oeuvre, reflected to this date by more than 110 citations in OMIM and a number of syndromes that
bear his name including the Beckwith–Wiedemann
syndrome, Wiedemann–Rautenstrauch syndrome,
Stüve–Wiedemann syndrome, and Genée–
Wiedemann syndrome. For other newly delineated
disorders he found such conspicuous names as
Kleeblattschädel syndrome or Proteus syndrome.
He was the first to report the increased incidence of
limb defects later shown by Widukind Lenz to be
caused by thalidomide and, together with his pupil
Marlis Tolksdorf, to introduce granulocyte analysis as
an instrument for sex determination. The names of
Lenz and Tolksdorf stand for the vast number of
clinicians and scientists with whom he corresponded
and the many students and associates who he
personally recruited, formed, engaged, and trusted.
Hans-Rudolf Wiedemann was more than a physician. He loved and lived for his family. And he was
one of the old breeds of physician-humanists. He
wrote poems [Wiedemann, 1994], collected, edited,
and published autographs dealing with poetry
[Wiedemann, 1987], children [Wiedemann, 1983],
great natural scientists and physicians [Wiedemann,
2001], Thomas Mann’s mother-in-law [Wiedemann,
1988b], to mention only a few. All of these books
were written and published after his retirement at the
age of 65 years giving testimony to mental vitality
to which he devoted one of his last treatises
[Wiedemann, 1995].
Hans-Rudolf Wiedemann was a great physician,
scientist, teacher, father of his family, friend, and
humanist. Duty was his joy.
Jürgen Spranger*
University Kinderklinik
Mainz, Germany
Wiedemann H-R Kinder. 1983. Autographisches zum Thema
Kind. Hansisches Verlagskontor Lübeck.
Wiedemann H-R. 1987. Zweihundertfünfzig Gedichte aus drei
Jahrhunderten. Hanissches Verlagskontor, Lübeck.
Wiedemann H-R. 1988a. Briefe im Hitlerreich. Politische Aussagen zwischen Vater und Sohn. Ed Graphische Werkstätten
Wiedemann H-R. 1988b. Thomas Manns Schwiegermutter
erzählt. Drägerdruck Lübeck.
Wiedemann H-R. 1994. Längs des Wegs. Gedichte eines
Kinderarztes aus fünfzig Jahren. Dräger, Lübeck.
Wiedemann H-R. 1995. Langlebigkeit und geistige Vitalität.
Drägerdruck, Lübeck.
Wiedemann H-R. 2001. Briefe grosser Naturforscher und Ärzte.
Drägerdruck, Lübeck.
Wiedemann H-R, Glatzl J. 1991. Follow-up of Ullrich’s original
patient with ‘Ullrich-Turner’ syndrome. Am J Med Genet
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