Obituary: Professor Franz Seitelberger

To the members of the International Society of Neuropathology:

It is my sad duty to inform you of Professor Franz Seitelberger's passing away on Nov. 2, 2007, at the age of 91, after a long severe illness. He was President of ISN 1974-1978, ISN Honorary Member, and a leading figure of global neuropathology for many decades.

Franz Seitelberger was Director of the Neurological Institute (Obersteiner Institute) of the University of Vienna (now Institute of Neurology of the Medical University Vienna), Dean of the Medical Faculty 1974/1975, and Rector Magnificus of the University of Vienna 1975-1977, during the very difficult period of implementation of a radically new university law. With his demise the Institute of Neurology, the (Medical) University of Vienna, Austrian and International Neuropathology lose a unique personality and outstanding scholar who personified the golden age of Neuropathology. On the national scale, he almost single-handed developed the Obersteiner Institute to a multidisciplinary medico-scientific Centre of Excellence that has a continuing proud tradition in training of several generations of neuropathologists and other scientists from all parts of the world. His merits were awarded with highest national and international honours, including one of the highest Orders of the Empire of Japan.

Franz Seitelberger was born on Dec. 4, 1916 in Vienna, graduated there as MD in 1940, and was licensed in 1950 as neurologist and psychiatrist. In 1954 he won readership (Habilitation, Dozentur) for Neurology, Neuroanatomy and Neuropathology. He became Professor extraordinarius in 1958, Professor ordinarius for Neurology in 1964, and directed the Neurological Institute 1959-1987. In 1960 Seitelberger stayed as Visiting Professor at the National Institutes of Health, NINDS, Bethesda, MD, USA, and finally completed 1984-1986 his scientific career as Fogarty Scholar at the same institution. Seitelberger was member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, of the Max Planck Society in Germany, of the International Brain Research Organisation (IBRO), of the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina, Honorary Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and of the Mexican Medical Academy, and Director of the Institute for Brain Research of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. He was also Honorary Member and Member in numerous scientific societies, Founding Editor of Acta Neuropathologica, and author of more than 380 scientific publications. His main research interests were with neurodegenerative and metabolic disorders, and his name is entrenched with research on infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy, connatal Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease und Gerstmann-Sträussler-Scheinker disease.

Those of us lucky who knew him personally have been more than impressed by his outstanding knowledge in all fields of clinical and basic neurosciences. In addition, he had broad expertise and interests in the humanities, culture and music, and can well be considered as one of the last universal personalities of Polyhistor. Franz Seitelberger will stay in our memory as an exemplary individual, warm friend, true gentleman, generous host, respected physician, outstanding scientist, dedicated teacher and devoted family man. He is survived by his wife Dr. Erika, his son Prof. Rainald, his daughters Edda and Linda, daughter- and sons-in-law, and 7 grandchildren.

Herbert Budka