Robert Schumann in the psychiatric hospital at Endenich

Prog Brain Res. 2015;216:233-75. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2014.11.009. Epub 2015 Jan 20.


Robert Schumann (1810-1856) spent the last two-and-a-half years of his life in the private psychiatric hospital in Endenich. His medical records emerged in 1991 and were published by B. R. Appel in 2006. Daily entries document the treatment typical at that time for what was at first considered to be "melancholy with delusions": Shielding from stimuli, physical procedures, and a dietary regimen. The feared, actual diagnosis, a "general (incomplete) paralysis," becomes a certainty in the course of the paranoid-hallucinatory symptoms with cerebro-organic characteristics and agitated states, differences in pupil size, and increasing speech disturbances. In the medicine of the time, syphilis is just emerging as the suspected cause, and the term "progressive paralysis" is coined as typical for the course. Proof of the Treponema pallidum infection and the serologic reaction is not obtained until 1906. People close to Robert, in particular his wife Clara and the circle of friends around Brahms and Joachim, cared intensively for him and suffered under the therapeutic isolation. The medical records and illness-related letters contradict the theory that Schumann was disposed of by being put into the psychiatric hospital; they show the concern of all during the unfavorable illness course.

Keywords: Clara Schumann; Robert Schumann; neurolues; paralysis; psychiatric disease; romantic psychiatry.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Famous Persons*
  • History, 19th Century
  • Hospitals, Psychiatric / history*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / history*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement Disorders / etiology

Personal name as subject

  • Robert Schumann