Ludo van Bogaert

Ludo van Bogaert
(1897-1989)

Dr. Ludo van Bogaert Born on the 25th of May 1897 in Antwerp, Belgium, deceased on the 4th of March 1989 in Antwerp, Belgium.

Dr. Ludo van Bogaert´s life and tremendous achievements could not be better summarized than by quoting Michel Philippart, one of his pupils: "van Bogaert´s personality defies sketches. He was the kind of person one meets only once in a lifetime. He was elemental like the sea, powerful and illusory". He was indeed a very charismatic figure able to inspire deep and continuing enthusiasm among his followers. Dr. L. van Bogaert possessed the unique gift to visualize and integrate the topography and the structure of lesions of the central and peripheral nervous system. He combined the best features of the French and German schools of neuropathology. These features added to a deep clinical knowledge and great skills at the bedside allowed him to make brilliant syntheses of disparate facts. The logical consequence was that L. van Bogaert was instrumental in the identification of many new disorders of the nervous system.

L. van Bogaert started his medical studies in the Netherlands. They were interrupted when he volunteered in the Belgian army during the first World War. He was wounded twice. The second wound was severe since he suffered from a spinal concussion due to a machine-gun bullet. He recovered from his paraplegia and completed his medical studies at the "Université libre de Bruxelles" in 1922. He trained in neurology (Paris) and in neuropathology (Paris, Vienna, Berlin and Münich). He started his medical career in Stuyvenberg´s hospital in Antwerp where he established a laboratory of neuropathology in the hospital´s basement.

The Bunge Institute created by Edouard Bunge and his family in 1927 was opened in December 1934 with Dr. N. Van der Stricht as medical director. Dr. L. van Bogaert became head of the department of internal medicine and of neurology. He transferred his laboratory of pathological anatomy (neuropathology) into the Bunge Institute. He developed there his research on many hereditary degenerative disorders of the nervous system and on metabolic disorders in infants and adults affecting grey and white matter. He described the subacute sclerosing leucoencephalitis and many other encephalitides. He individualized different less typical phacomatoses. The existence of the zoological garden in Antwerp and his contacts with veterinarians led him to do comparative neuropathology in mammals.

Dr. L. van Bogaert established with the help of the families Born, Bracht and other wealthy Antwerp families a Fund of Dotation and Research to support the scientific activities of different laboratories active in the Bunge Institute. To these sources of income, he and his collaborators obtained official national and international funding in the following years. The clinical activities were maintained in the Bunge Institute while the research activities were realized in a newly created Born-Bunge Foundation which has become now the Born-Bunge Intitute. A partnership was developed first with the "Rijks Universitair Centrum Antwerpen" (RUCA), then with the "Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen" (UIA) and finally with the University of Antwerp (UA). As a result of the association with the UIA, the laboratories were transferred from Berchem to Wilrijk on the campus of the UIA while the clinical activities were moved into the University Hospital.

A great number of trainees from Belgium and abroad came in the laboratory of pathological anatomy (neuropathology). The scientific neuropathological activities were coordinated by Dr. L. van Bogaert but heads of the laboratory of neuropathology were appointed in the course of time (Hans-Joachim Scherer, Gian-Carlo Guazzi and Jean-Jacques Martin).

Dr. L. van Bogaert has a most impressive list of at least 753 publications. One can say at least because other papers could be added since they were inspired or written in part or totally by Dr. L. van Bogaert without him taking the credits. These 753 + papers cover the whole field of clinical neuropathology with the accent laid on some specific original topics. Dr. L. van Bogaert described a great number of new conditions affecting the nervous system like the cerebro-tendinous xanthomatosis (now known as a cholestanolosis), the spongy degeneration of the neuraxis (now called asparto-acylase deficiency), the subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, different sorts of leukodystrophies, the optico-cochleo-dentate atrophy, spinocerebellar ataxias, new phacomatoses etc. He made also major contributions to the field of the dementias by describing the very early forms of familial Alzheimer disease (now, after the seminal papers by C. Van Broeckhoven and co-workers, shown to be due to preseniline mutations) and hereditary peripheral neuropathies with Argyll-Robertson pupils. He published many papers devoted to veterinary pathology with studies concerning epileptic disorders in apes, sway-back in sheep and distemper in dogs etc. Due to his contacts with the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Dr. L. van Bogaert was also able to study various tropical or parasitic diseases like malaria, trypanosomiasis, cysticercosis etc.

Beside his clinical and neuropathological activities he became also the first President of the World Federation of Neurology. L. van Bogaert had contributed to found with P. Bailey, H-H. Merritt, A. Löwenthal and C.M. Poser and others. He remained president for two terms of office (2 x 4 years). Later on he was also elected first President of the International Society for Neuropathology. He also became doctor honoris causa of 14 universities during his long scientific career (the last one in 1981 at the University of Siena where one of his pupils and former "Chef de Travaux" Gian-Carlo Guazzi was professor of neurology). He was also member of some 50 scientific societies.

To conclude, Dr. L. van Bogaert was not only the founder of the laboratory of neuropathology and of the whole Born-Bunge Institute but he was one of the greatest neurologist and neuropathologist of his time. He was also a fine art collector of paintings and of silver and chinese ceramics (see Baeck 2003-2005). After his death he insured that his collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures were given to the Museum of fine Arts of his beloved city of Antwerp. His bibliophilic collection of rare books, autographic manuscripts, correspondence with different French authors was given to the Royal Library Albert I in Brussels under the denomination of "Fund Baron van Bogaert". Items related to the past history of Antwerp were given to the "Provincial Domain" of Bokrijk (Genk, Limburg). The rest was used to create a "Sheid-van Bogaert Foundation" to further support the scientific activities of the Born-Bunge Institute.

A few references are given to provide further information:

- Baeck E. (2003): Ludo van Bogaert (1897-1989). Neurologist, Bibliophile and Patron of the Arts. A booklet of 65 pages. Supported by the UCB Institute of Epilepsy. Private edition. UCB Pharma Brussels.

- Baeck E. (2005): Ludo van Bogaert (1897-1989) and the Bunge Institute. Europ J Neurol 12: 181-188.

- Martin J-J., Martin L. (1990) : Hommage ŕ Monsieur Ludo van Bogaert. Acta neurol. belg. 90: 27-45.

- Martin L. and J-J. (1996): Ludo van Bogaert (1897-1989) Acta neurol. belg., 96 : 254-263.

Jean-Jacques Martin

film material

Well documented filmed cases are a particular but poorly known part of the scientific heritage of Ludo van Bogaert. The arrival of Edison’s Kinetoscope (1891) and Lumière’s Cinématographe (1895) provoked the immediate interest of neurologists who foresaw the potential of motion pictures for illustration, research and teaching. Ludo van Bogaert has filmed many of his neurologic patients.
He left us a record-office full of film material on 16 and 35mm films in the Institute Born-Bunge. The first movies of van Bogaert date back to 1923. Part of the 35mm films are already restored in the Royal Belgian Film Archive and transferred to a digital submaster. The content is mostly about movement disorders (myoclonus, tremor, ataxia, dystonia, subacute sclerosing panencephalitis, Wilsons’ disease, etc.). Also neurologic disorders in monkeys (Antwerp Zoological Institute) were filmed for scientific purposes. Ludo van Bogaert’s films were never published: he only used them for illustration at symposia and congresses.
Van Bogaert’s films were certainly not the oldest in their kind, but his film material is particular and well conserved. Most of his filmed neurologic cases are preceded by an introduction of the patient (initials, date of observation, diagnosis) and are complemented with an extended clinical examination and short resume of the evolution of the disease. This well documented material opens many perspectives for research. For most of the films, a corresponding article in Travaux de l’ Institut Bunge can be found and compared to the contemporary understanding of the disease.

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