Passings: Dr. Christian Herrmann, Jr., 96; Prominent UCLA Neurologist

Dr. Christian Herrmann, Jr., a longtime resident of Pacific Palisades, passed away from pneumonia on October 23. He was 96.

Dr. Herrmann had a distinguished career on the UCLA medical school faculty, and trained under several preeminent academic neurologists of the day, including Elisabeth Caroline Crosby, Houston Merritt and Paul Hoefer.

He was hired in 1954 as the second faculty member in what became UCLA’s Department of Neurology. His responsibilities included student teaching, the adult neurology clinic, interpretation of EEGs, and specialty clinics for epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and myasthenia gravis. Colleagues remember Dr. Herrmann as patient and thorough, a “Neurologist’s Neurologist.”

Dr. Christian Herrmann, Jr.

Sixty-three years later, he would still maintain an active presence there. In 2008 UCLA honored him by naming a conference room in the Reed Neurological Research Center after him.

The seeds for his contributions to medicine and education were sown in his Lansing, Michigan, childhood. Christian was the son of Christian Herrmann, a tailor and haberdasher, and Agnes (Bauch) Herrmann, a talented conservatory graduate who taught piano and voice in their family’s handsome brick home.

Dr. Herrmann grew into a proficient pianist, organist and pipe organ aficionado who continued to play both piano and organ in his Edgewater Towers condominium in the Palisades. And he credited his interest in electricity (which was later demonstrated by his choice to pursue neurology and by the lighting he installed in his home) to his fascination with the old-fashioned plug for his mother’s curling iron.

His childhood home, known as Herrmann House, now belongs to Lansing Community College, where it is the residence of the college’s president and an official historical site. Not only an educator in his own right, Dr. Herrmann became a life-long supporter of the college, donating funds in 1995 to extend the home with a solarium and conference center.

After attending Lansing public schools, Christian graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he began medical school in 1941. As he later told friends, “I’ve seen tremendous development in medicine. After all, I came into it before sulfa drugs and penicillin.”

Pearl Harbor brought changes, however, and his education accelerated, and took a different course. He entered the Navy and spent two years in its year-round program at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, also deciding during this time to return to California’s pleasant climate one day.

Graduating from medical school in July 1944, however, he first spent his internship and part of his residency in Detroit, then moved to New York City after the war for a residency at the Neurologic Institute of New York at Presbyterian Hospital.

This took Dr. Herrmann to one of this country’s first EEG (electroencephalogra- phy) laboratories, where the diagnostic value of brain waves was being investigated. “I read EEGs at night,” he later said. “This was the time of iron lungs and polio. . . . I slept in an adjacent room to take care of these patients [as well as those with myasthenia gravis],” a neuromuscular disease in which he later specialized.

His colleague, Dr. Yvette Bordelon, re- ported that everyone was speaking of Dr. Herrmann in the hallways the day UCLA’s neurologists learned of his passing. “They wanted to share how Dr. Herrmann changed their lives,” she said.

Dr. William Buxton, for example, spoke warmly of “Dr. Herrmann’s example of both the science and art of medicine.” And

Dr. Susan Perlman added that “Dr. Herrmann (who taught me during my residency) was clearly the best clinical teacher of neurology I ever had.”

In the Palisades, Dr. Herrmann was a former president of the Edgewater Towers homeowners’ association, which he also served in innumerable ways over the past 31 years.

On Saturday, October 28, friends and colleagues gathered at the Edgewater Towers gazebo, overlooking the ocean, to remember him. A graveside funeral will be held in Lansing, Michigan, when he will be laid to rest in the Herrmann family plot.

Christian Herrmann, Jr. will long be remembered for his fine mind, his enduring friendships, his sense of humor and his unusual breadth of knowledge and interests. He will be sorely missed.

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