Semin Musculoskelet Radiol 2024; 28(02): 218-220
DOI: 10.1055/s-0043-1778025
History Page

Auguste Wackenheim (1925–1998)

Guillaume Bierry
1   MSK Imaging, Strasbourg University Hospital, France
› Institutsangaben

Professor Auguste Wackenheim was born 30 years after the discovery of X-rays and became a pioneer in the field ([Fig. 1]). Born on July 17, 1925, in Hagenau, Alsace, Wackenheim embarked on his medical journey at the University of Strasbourg to become a pioneer in spine imaging and neuroradiology. He combined a strong personality with the power of remarkable professional knowledge that had a profound impact on several fundamental discoveries in clinical radiology. Wackenheim published > 570 scientific articles and 46 books, some of which have been translated into multiple languages.

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Fig. 1 Professor Auguste Wackenheim (reproduced with permission from Springer Nature. Wenz W. Obituary: Prof. Dr. Auguste Wackenheim, 1925–1998. Eur Radiol 1998;8:1500–1501).[1]

His decision to dedicate himself to radiology was influenced by his stay with Hermann Fischgold in Paris, where he decided to focus on craniovertebral and cerebromedullary diagnostics. After he returned to Strasbourg, he became a professor in 1966. Ten years later, he assumed leadership of the Department of Neuroradiology, and in 1979, he succeeded his renowned mentor, Charles Gros, as the head of the Department of Diagnostic Radiology at the University of Strasbourg.[1] In September 1976, Strasbourg obtained the first serial computed tomography (CT) scanner in France, marking a pivotal moment in medical imaging. Wackenheim was one of the earliest proponents of CT on the continent and soon recognized the potential of computed technology in radiology.

Wackenheim's legacy is particularly associated with two areas of diagnostic radiology: neuroradiologic semiology, elucidated in numerous textbooks, and studies on the cervical spine, notably cheirolumbar dysostosis, a medical entity described in the American Birth Defects Encyclopedia.[2] [3] His name is associated with the baseline measurement for dens positional abnormalities, the “Wackenheim line,” a landmark that helps diagnose basilar invagination ([Fig. 2]). He also established a research sector in artificial intelligence (AI), confirming his innovative approach to radiology. In 1988, Wackenheim organized the first meeting in Strasbourg dedicated to AI in medical imaging, although the role of AI has only flourished during the last few decades.

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Fig. 2 Wackenheim's line (also known as the clivus canal line or basilar line) is formed by drawing a line along the clivus and extending it inferiorly to the upper cervical canal (dotted line). Normally the tip of the dens is ventral and tangential to this line. In basilar invagination, the odontoid process transects this line.

Despite his strong attachment to France, Wackenheim created a so-called English meeting with neighbors Werner Wenz in Freiburg and Manfred Elke in Basel. Anglophone sessions were held regularly in rotation across the three Rhine border regions, allowing younger colleagues to express themselves in the modern lingua franca.

In addition to his pioneering role in neuroradiology, Wackenheim was a highly regarded educator, brilliant and always engaging. His school is a testament to his scientific strength, intellectual prowess, and overall power as a human being. He was undeniably well supported, drawing inspiration and challenges from those who remained working with him (e.g., Pierre Bourjat, Jean-Louis Dietemann, Catherine Roy, and Georg Zollner), and those who embarked on their own paths after a longer or shorter journey (e.g., Michel Dupuis, Jean-Claude Dosch, and Afshin Gangi).

Uncharacteristically for a radiologist, Wackenheim also enjoyed nonmedical interests. Throughout his life, he had a deep enthusiasm for language and arts as evidenced by his dialect pieces and poems. These poems, which he illustrated with watercolors, showcase a style he perfected in his later years. Following his initial monograph in 1971 on Alsatian painter Leo Schnug, Wackenheim emerged as one of the most prolific writers in modern Alsace. In his magnum opus, Anthologie illustrée de la littérature dialectale alsacienne, a multivolume historical work, he meticulously compiled important texts and poems written in the first use of the Alsatian dialect since the late 18th century.


Artikel online veröffentlicht:
14. März 2024

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  • References

  • 1 Wenz W. Obituary: Prof. Dr. Auguste Wackenheim, 1925–1998. Eur Radiol 1998; 8: 1500-1501
  • 2 Wackenheim A, Kehr P. Cheirolumbar dysostosis: a mono-osseous form (monovertebral and monophalangeal). Neuroradiology 1987; 29 (06) 589
  • 3 Wackenheim A, Dosch JC, Zöllner G. Roentgen diagnosis of traumatic instability of the middle and lower cervical spine (C3-C7) [in German]. Orthopade 1987; 16 (01) 20-26