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Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt was born into a medical family in Harburg, which was incorporated into Hamburg in 1937. He fulfilled his military service in Kiel and attended the School of Medicine of the Universities of Jena and Rostock, receiving his doctorate at the latter in 1909. Part of his practical training was undertaken at St. Georg - Hospital in Hamburg. After qualification he sought adventure as a ship's surgeon, voyaging the Pacific Ocean, taking the opportunity to study local crafts, linguistics, and tropical plants.
After returning to Germany, Creutzfeldt worked at the Neurological Institute in Frankfurt am Main, at the psychiatric-neurological clinics in Breslau, Kiel and Berlin, and at the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Psychiatrie in Munich. He was habilitated at Kiel in 1920, and in 1925 became Extraordinarius of psychiatry and neurology. In 1938 he was appointed professor and director of the university psychiatric and neurological division in Kiel. During his tenure as director, he managed to save almost all of his patients from being executed under the Nazi Action T4 euthanasia program.
Creutzfeldt was 54 years of age when the Second World War broke out. Creutzfeldt had little sympathy for the Nazi regime and was able to save some people from death in concentration camps. During the war, bombing destroyed his home and clinic.
After the war he was director of the University of Kiel for six months, before being dismissed by the British occupation forces. His efforts to rebuild the university caused several conflicts with the British because he wanted to allow more former army officers to study there. In 1953 he moved on to Munich to work scientifically. He died in 1964 in Munich.
He was married to Clara Sombart, a daughter of Werner Sombart. They have 5 children, among them Otto Detlev Creutzfeldt and Werner Creutzfeldt (1924-2006), a renowned German Internist.
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a subacute spongiform encephalopathy caused from prions involving the cerebral cortex, the basal ganglia and the spinal cord.
- Adrenoleukodystrophy, a rare demyelination disorder also known as Siemerling-Creutzfeldt Disease causing progressive brain damage, adrenal failure, and eventually death.
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