Biography of Carl-Henry Alström 1907-1993
“In his scientific production Alström displays his rich and versatile gifts as a researcher, his wide sphere of interest, meticulous clinical analysis, elegant statistical studies, penetrating genetic expositions, and important socio-medical contributions.”
~Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia, Vol. 49, 1973
Carl-Henry Alström was born in Vasteras, Sweden on May 3, 1907. He studied in Stockholm and received his doctorate in psychiatry in 1935 the Karolinska Institute of Medicine. He began his career as a research scientist in 1938 when he published his landmark observations on the connection between schizophrenia and tuberculosis.
From 1940-42 he was Deputy Director of the Institute for Human Genetics at Uppsala, where he conducted genetic research. In 1945, he was made 2nd Assistant Physician at the Neurological Clinic in the famous Serafimerlasarettet Hospital which operated in Stockholm since the early eighteenth century. He was Director of the Experimental Psychiatry Clinical Laboratory from 1948 to 1960, with an interest in the clinical, social and genetic aspects of epilepsy.
A study published by Alström in 1950 is still considered a landmark on the subject of epileptics in society. He subsequently became Head of the Department of Psychiatry the Karolinska Institute at St. Görans Hospital in Stockholm and served with distinction from 1961 until his retirement in 1973.
It was at the Serafimerlasarettet Hospital in 1946 that he saw a 14 year old boy who appeared to have symptoms similar to the Laurence-Moon-Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, yet this patient’s condition was different in several important ways. The child had retinal degeneration and obesity bearing a similarity to LMBBS, but also exhibited neurological hearing impairment and normal mental development. Alström was so interested in this case that he continued to followed it up after he moved to the Karolinska Institute.
Further investigation revealed that the young man had two second cousins, a boy and a girl about ten years older, with similar but more pronounced features. Alström and his co-authors, B. Hallgren, IB Nilsson and H Asander described these three patients in an elegant and very thorough manuscript published in 1959, detailing the apparently recessive hereditary combination of retinal degeneration, obesity, sensorineural hearing loss, and diabetes. The new syndrome was known for a short time as the Alström-Hallgren syndrome, but later was designated simply Alström Syndrome.