Alfred Leber

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Alfred Leber (born March 7, 1881 in Antwerp , † 1954 in Delhi , India ) was a German ophthalmologist and tropical medicine. The Göttingen university professor is considered to be the founder of German tropical ophthalmology .


Alfred Leber was the nephew of the ophthalmologist Theodor Leber and influenced by him. After graduating from high school in Viersen in 1899 , he studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg , Munich and Berlin . He received his doctorate in Heidelberg in 1905.

He first worked in the Berlin University Eye Clinic under its director Julius von Michel . Crucial to this specialized career was not least to participate in his first South Sea - Expedition 1910/11 together with the tropical disease Stanislaus von Prowazek the Hamburg Tropical Institute of Samoa , Saipan and Sumatra .

As early as 1912, Leber was appointed full professor at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen under the director of the eye clinic there, Artur von Hippel .

Excursion route

His second research trip was the Medical-Demographic German New Guinea Expedition of the Reich Colonial Office in 1913/14 , in which the tropical medicine professor Ludwig Külz took part as his deputy expedition leader as well as the painter Emil Nolde and his wife Ada. This expedition ended just before the First World War began . While Nolde and his wife found their way back to Germany, albeit under the most adventurous circumstances and with the loss of large parts of their luggage, Leber's route to Germany was cut off. On July 27, he left Rabaul on board the “Manila”, which was confiscated by the Dutch in Ambonia .

In the Central Hospital of Deli in Sumatra, he first found employment. In 1916 in Malang , Java , he became the head of a hospital for ophthalmic and tropical diseases. His traveling companion, the poet Max Dauthendey, died in this hospital in 1918.

At the end of July 1922 he returned to Germany. The hope of gaining a position as a university lecturer there as a professor on leave from Göttingen University was deceptive. So he returned to Java, where he again ran a clinic in Malang in the 1930s.

On May 10 or 11, 1940, he and his wife were interned in separate prisons, and their property was auctioned. Like other German men in the Dutch East Indies , he was transferred to the camp for German Asian prisoners in Dehradun in 1942 for fear of a Japanese invasion to India . a. Heinrich Harrer (in the National Socialist Department) and Anagarika Govinda , the founder of the Arya Maitreya Mandala , and Nyanaponika . After his release on November 5, 1946, he was unable to return to destroyed Germany. He soon found employment as the head of the eye clinic at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Bhopal . In 1952 he became a full professor at the Muslim University of Aligarh , director of the local ophthalmic institute and then dean of the faculty.


His first wife Dorothee , geb. v. He met Fritsch in Sumatra. They married on December 8, 1919 in Malang. The divorce took place in 1933, Dorothee returned to Germany.

In the following year Leber married the nurse Lotte, geb. Junius, in Surabaya . After her arrest, like many wives, she was allowed to travel to Japanese territory. She died on March 7, 1943 in Japanese-occupied Shanghai , presumably by her own hand.


  • Ada Nolde: A few memories of a planned lecture about the joint trip to the South Seas. In: Emil Nolde - Die Südseereise 1913–1914. Pp. 43-71.
  • Manfred Reuther (Ed.): Emil Nolde - Die Südseereise 1913–1914. Catalog for the exhibition in Berlin. DuMont, Cologne 2008, ISBN 978-3-8321-9083-5 (German, English)
  • Manfred Reuther: Emil Nolde's East Asia trip and the moving South Sea journey In: Emil Nolde - The South Sea journey 1913–1914. Pp. 21-27.
  • Rainald Schmieg: Alfred Leber, founder of the German tropical ophthalmology . Diss. Univ. Düsseldorf, 1992
  • Johannes W. Grüntzig , Heinz Mehlhorn: Alfred Th. Leber (1881–1954): A pioneer of tropical ophthalmology - lost in the South Seas - rediscovered in India . 1992, doi: 10.1055 / s-2008-1045905
  • Johannes W. Grüntzig, Heinz Mehlhorn: Expeditions into the realm of epidemics. Medical ascension orders of the German imperial and colonial times . Elsevier-Verlag, Munich 2005

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Biographical Handbook German New Guinea . 2nd Edition. Fassberg, 2002, p. 219
  2. At the end of the war, about refugees from NI 700 were in Japan. Charles Burdick: The Expulsion of Germans from Japan 1947-48 . P. 52 f.