Erb's paralysis, a relatively uncommon malady, probably is the cause for most physicians' remembering the neurologist from Heidelberg.1 Erb's interest in clinical neurology, however, was broad and diversified and included many contributions beyond the localized lesion of the brachial plexus. A hypothesis for the etiology of tabes dorsalis, the descriptions of myotonia congenita and a juvenile form of progressive muscular atrophy, use of the term "tendon reflex," and studies on electrodiagnosis and electrotherapy are other accomplishments.
William was born in the Black Forest in Bavaria, the son of a forester.2 As a peripatetic student, typical of the German system of higher education, university studies were begun at Heidelberg and continued at Erlangen. At the age of 24, he received his MD degree at Munich. He selected internal medicine initially as his field of interest, but diverted later to neuropathology and clinical neurology. After a short term as professor
WILHELM HEINRICH ERB, 1840-1921. JAMA. 1962;182(9):940-941. doi:10.1001/jama.1962.03050480046014