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Lange, Carl Georg

Lange, Carl Georg

(b. Vordingborg, Denmark, 4 December 1834; d. Copenhagen, Denmark, 29 May 1900)

medicine, psychology.

Lange’s father, Frederik Lange, was professor of education at Copenhagen University; his mother, the former Louise Paludan-Müller, came from a learned family.

After graduating from the Copenhagen Metropolitan School in 1853, he studied medicine at Copenhagen University; after receiving the M.D. in 1859 he worked until 1867 as an intern in the medical departments of the Royal Frederiks Hospital and the Almindelig Hospital in Copenhagen. He published studies on ulcerous endocarditis and typhoid fever and an excellent description of the symptomatology and occurrence of rheumatic fever and an excellent description of the symptomatology and occurrence of rheumatic fever based on 1,900 cases. In 1863 Lange was sent to Greenland and reported on the widespread distribution of tuberculosis there. In 1867-1868 he studied histology in Zurich and experimental physiology in Florance with Moritz Schiff, who in 1856 had demonstrated the vasoconstrictor fibers in the cervical sympathetic segment. Schiff aroused Lange’s interest in vasomotor reactions and in neurophysiology. At Florence, Lange published an experimental study concerning curare’s influence on the nervous system.

After his return to Copenhagen, Lange was prosector at the Royal Frederiks Hospital and municipal health officer; he also had a private practice. In 1866 he had become coeditor of Hospitalstidende, in which many of his pioneer studies were published. In 1866 he was the first to describe acute bulbar paralysis; in 1870 he wrote on symptoms arising from cerebellar tumors; and in 1872 he demonstrated the secondary degeneration of the posterior columns of the spinal cord caused by spinal meningitis, thereby anticipating the later neuron doctrine. His discovery was unnoticed until 1894, when Jean Nageotte made the same findings; it was fully accepted in 1897 in C. W. Nothnagel’s Internal Pathology. In 1873 Lange published his anatomical-clinical investigations on chronic myelitis, dividing the syndromes into those of the anterior horns with atrophy, in the lateral tracts with paraplegia and in the posterior tracts with root pains and ataxia. It was a very clear and really new point of view—but because it was written in Danish, it did not obtain the distribution and significance it deserved.

From 1869 to 1872 Lange lectured at Copenhagen University on pathology of the spinal cord. The lectures were published as Forelaesninger over rygmarvens patologi, which contains physiologically inspired descriptions of the various syndromes of paralysis, sensibility disturbances, and reflex phenomena. There are chapters on pain, hyperesthesia, and eccentric perceptions. His ideas of reflex pain, angina pectoris, and projected pain were later emphasized by Head and Wernøe.

In 1873 Lange failed to obtain the position of physician-in-chief in medicine at the Royal Frederiks Hospital, but 1875 he was appointed lecturer in pathological anatomy and in 1885 became professor of the subject at Copenhagen University. Despite very bad working conditions he continued scientific studies, most of them based on extensive clinical material from his private practice with nervous patients. In 1885 he published Om Sindsbevageleser, a psychophysiological study on vasomotor disturbances and conditioned reflexes during periods of emotional stress. Excitement was the result of vasomotor manifestations and not of mental entities—a theory still known by psychologists as the James-Lange theory.

In 1886 Lange published Periodiske depressionstilstande, which separated periodic depressive conditions from the neurasthenic. Since he believed the depressions were caused by uric acid diathesis, his theory was attacked not only by psychiatrists but also by internists. His ideas found several defenders, however, especially in France. In 1899 Lange published Bidrag til nydelsernes fysiologi, a study of the pleasurable sensations in emotions. The book met with indignation—his explanations of vasomotor reactions during sympathetic reactions to the perception of beauty disturbed the ideas of aesthetes and philosophers.

As a member of several committees for public hygiene and hospital service and of the City Council, Lange procured reforms in vaccination, school hygiene, hospital buildings, and water supply. He was a member of the board of Medicinsk Selskab and a founder of Biologisk Selskab. As secretary-general of the International Congress of Physicians held at Copenhagen in 1884, he made possible the meeting of such people as Pasteur, Virchow, James Paget, and Donders with the rather provincial Danish medical profession.


I. Original Works. A full list of Lange’s works is in Knud Faber, Erindringer om C. Lange, pp. 61-66. Translations include Ueber Gemüthsbewegungen. Eine psychologisch-physiologische Studie, Hans Kurella, trans. (Leipzig, 1887; 2nd ed., 1910); Les émotions, G. Dumas, trans. (Paris, 1895; 2nd ed., 1902); Boden der harnsäure Diathese, H. Kurella, ed. (Hamburg, 1896); Sinesgenüsse und Kunstgenüss, L. Loewenfeld and H. Kurella, eds. (Wiesbaden, 1903); and Psychology Classics, William James, trans. (Boston, 1922).

II. Secondary Literature. See Knud Faber, Erindringer om C. Lange (Copenhagen, 1927); Edvard Gotfredsen, Medicines Historie (Corpenhagen, 1964), pp. 427, 517, 522-523; and P. Bender Petersen, “La description de réflexes conditionnels par C. Lange,” in E. Dein, Sct Hans Hospital 1816-1966 (Copenhagen, 1966), pp. 188-192.

E. Snorrason

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