Erik Adolf von Willebrand

Is your surname von Willebrand?

Research the von Willebrand family

Erik Adolf von Willebrand's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Erik Adolf von Willebrand

Birthplace: Vaasa, Finland
Death: December 12, 1949 (79)
Pernaja, Finland
Immediate Family:

Son of Fredrik Magnus von Willebrand and Signe Estlander
Husband of Valborg Maria Antell
Father of Emelie Louise von Willebrand and Märta Signe Sofia Lindberg
Brother of Louise Vuorio; Axel Fredrik von Willebrand; Sigrid Bergman and Karl Reinhold von Willebrand

Occupation: Med. o. Kir. Dr.
Managed by: Dag Henrik Gösta Lundqvist
Last Updated:

About Erik Adolf von Willebrand

Son of Fredrik Magnus von Willebrand and Signe Estlander, Erik Adolf von Willebrand was born 1 February 1870 in the port city Vasa. After passing the baccalaureate in 1888 he entered medical studies at the University of Helsingfors. During the summers of 1894 and 1895 he worked as a physician in Mariehamn, the capital of the Äland islands, partly as the cholera doctor and partly as a subordinate physician to the Mariehamn spa. Here he learned about 'Älandic haemorrhagic disease'. He qualified as a doctor in 1896, and in 1899 he defended a doctoral thesis that dealt with his investigations into the changes in blood after a serious loss of blood, _Zur Kenntnis der Blutveränderungen nach Aderlassen._ For the rest of his life von Willebrand remained interested in blood and especially in its coagulation properties.

He spent his internship and period as assistant physician 1897-1900 at the Deaconess Institute in Helsinki - Diakonisseanstaltens sjukhus, founded in 1867. A lecturer in anatomy from 1901 to 1903, he then worked in the department of physiology at Helsinki. Gaining his Docent in physical therapy in 1903, von Willebrand subsequently taught microscopical anatomy and gave lectures with practical exercises. In 1908 he also became docent of internal medicine. Here he described blood changes during muscular exercise, metabolism and obesity and CO2 and water exchange through the human skin.

From 1908 until his retirement in 1935 von Willebrand was a member of the department of medicine at the Deaconess Institute, where he was physician-in-chief between 1922 and 1931.

In 1925 von Willebrand was asked to examine a five year old girl named Hjordis from a village on the Äland islands. Both her mother and father belonged to families with histories of bleeding. She was the ninth of twelve children, of which four had died from uncontrolled bleeding at an early age. Intrigued by the disease of the girl and by her family history, von Willebrand travelled the Äland islands to study the disease further. He mapped the pedigree and found that twenty-three of the sixty-six family members had bleeding problems, and that more women than men were affected.

In his account of this family in 1926, Willebrand concluded that this was a previously unknown form of haemophilia and termed it pseudo-haemophilia with a prolonged bleeding time as its most prominent sign. Although referred to as a single disease, von Willebrand disease (VWD) is in fact a family of bleeding disorders caused by an abnormality of the von Willebrand factor (VWF). VWD is the most common hereditary bleeding disorder. VWD is a congenital bleeding disorder characterized by a lifelong tendency toward easy bruising, frequent epistaxis and menorrhagia.

Von Willebrand's article of 1926 was in Swedish. In 1931 he published an article about the disease in the German language. This caught the attention of Rudolf Jürgens, professor at the Berlin University clinic. Jürgens contacted von Willebrand in order to investigate Willebrand's patients with a kapillärtrombometer, an apparatus he had built in collaboration with others. Jürgens concluded that the bleeding tendency in von Willebrand's patients was caused by a disturbed function of thrombocytes, a view that proved to be wrong.

After retiring, von Willebrand continued teaching as a deputy professor, giving lecture on clinical laboratory methods and internal diseases. He received the title of professor in 1930. On his 75th birthday he wrote an article with the title _En genetisk blodsykdom blant innbyggerne på Äland_ (a genetical blood disease among the inhabitants of Äland). He was known for his modesty and integrity, and in his obituary it was said that he 'usually preferred to discuss his observations of nature rather than his personal achievements'. He died 12 September 1949.

view all

Erik Adolf von Willebrand's Timeline

February 1, 1870
Vaasa, Finland
February 26, 1901
Helsinki, Finland
November 24, 1903
Helsinki, Finland
December 12, 1949
Age 79
Pernaja, Finland