Berger, Hans 1873 - 1941


(1873-1941), psychiatrist

Hans Berger was born in Coburg, Bavaria on 21 May 1873. He obtained his medical degree from the University of Jena in 1897 before joining the University’s psychiatric clinic directed by Swiss psychiatrist Otto Binswanger (1852-1929), where he remained until his retirement in 1938. Berger would later succeed Binswanger as director of the psychiatric clinic and became Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry in 1919.

Berger’s initial research had been focused on finding physiological proof of psychic abilities such as telepathy, which led him to attempt to record the electrical activity of the brain. Following a number of cortical stimulation experiments in June 1924, Berger attached electrodes to a galvanometer (an instrument for detecting electrical current), providing the first electroencephalographic (EEG) recording. Berger subsequently published these results in 1929, cementing his status as the ‘founder’ of electroencephalography.

Despite these findings, Berger’s work was initially met with scepticism by British, American, and European observers, and he would not live to see the future success of electroencephalography as a scientific discipline. After retiring from the University of Jena in 1938, Berger’s health deteriorated due to congestive heart failure and he became bed-ridden. He committed suicide at his home in Jena on 1 June 1941.