Hermann Doose

1927 - 2018

Professor Hermann Doose died on April 23rd, 2018 after a short illness at the age of 90 years, leaving his family, friends and former colleagues at a great loss. He was a founding member of the neuropediatric society in Germany and a major proponent of pediatric epileptology during the second half of the last century. He was a pioneer in genetic epilepsies of childhood and the genetics of EEG traits and made many lasting contributions to pediatric epileptology. His name stays inseparably connected with Myoclonic Astatic Epilepsy, which also bears the name “Doose Syndrome.”

Hermann Doose was born on September 1927 in Lübeck, North Germany, as the son of a surgeon and a gynaecologist. In Lübeck he attended the local Gymnasium, until he was drafted at the age of 16 to serve at an anti-aircraft gun during the last year of the war. One day he fell off the platform, broke his leg and was transferred to a hospital. This finally made him the only survivor of the crew of students. He studied medicine in Kiel and Freiburg, followed by post graduate training in physiology, pathology, and finally paediatrics. In paediatrics he turned to neurology and epileptology after his residency. He started the first EEG laboratory in Kiel and finished his professorial thesis on the “Spectrum of Petit-Mal Epilepsies in Childhood” in 1963.

Professor Doose was head of the Department of Paediatric Neurology in Kiel, form 1975 until his retirement in 1992. His ambition for better treatment and comprehensive care for children with epilepsy made him found the North German Epilepsy Centre in 1972. He personally designed every detail of the building starting from the size of the rooms down to the position of every single power socket. In the following years many hundreds of children with epilepsy benefited from his great clinical knowledge and his ambition to improve the fate of every single patient. Until the last weeks before his death he continuously received letters and phone calls from former patients who had stayed in personal contact with him for decades. Hermann Doose was a charismatic and dedicated teacher, who managed to attract many young doctors towards the field of child neurology and paediatric epileptology, thereby spreading his knowledge throughout the country. But he was also known as an almost relentlessly tough worker who sometimes pushed himself and his co-workers beyond their limits. At times, this self-inflicted work load and perfectionism took a toll on his health and family life.

Many of his publications stem from times before the days of PubMed, which makes a precise number difficult to obtain. However, it must be well beyond 250. He also authored many books and book chapters. In the years between 1965 and 1998 his publications contributed decisively to the delineation of juvenile absence epilepsy (1965), myoclonic-astatic epilepsy, i.e. Doose syndrome (1970), infantile absence epilepsy (1994) and infantile Grand-Mal epilepsy (1998), now recognized as Dravet syndrome. In his sixties he decided to write a comprehensive textbook on paediatric epileptology in paperback format, so that every resident would be able to carry it in his white coat pocket and put it to use at bedside. When he was unable to find a publisher who agreed on the low book price he proposed, he published it privately. Today this book, now named “Dooses Epilepsies in Childhood and Adolescence” is available in its 13th edition.

Hermann Doose was President of the German chapter of the ILAE and the Society of Neuropediatrics. He received a number of prizes, amongst them most importantly the Michael prize in 1963, the Berger prize in 1985, and the Otfried-Foerster medal in 2004. In 1975 he was named “Ambassador for Epilepsy” by the ILAE. In 1974 he also founded a fund-raising society for research on childhood epilepsies that is still active today (“Hilfe für das anfallskranke Kind”).

Hermann Doose will be remembered as a great scientist and empathic clinician by colleagues, friends and patients.


-- Ulrich Stephani (Kiel), Bernd Neubauer (Giessen)

Photograph copyright Dieter Hein (Hamburg)