William M. Landau



Interview Date


Biographical History

William M. Landau was born just a few blocks from Washington University in 1924. He started college at the University of Chicago in 1941, but the United States' entry into World War II accelerated his college career, and after just two years, he returned to St. Louis to begin medical studies at Washington University School of Medicine. He was 18. Landau completed medical school in 1947 and joined the neurology faculty in 1954. He was named professor emeritus 58 years later and continued conducting research into his 90s.

Landau was a professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis from 1954 to 2012 and served as head of the Department of Neurology from 1970 to 1991. He was the longest-serving faculty member at the School of Medicine. Landau specialized in movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, but his interests ranged widely. With Frank Kleffner, PhD, of the Central Institute of the Deaf, he identified and described Landau-Kleffner syndrome, a rare disorder in which children lose the ability to speak and respond to language.

He also studied how patients fared after being revived with CPR when their hearts had stopped beating, and concluded that the risk of severe, debilitating brain damage was underappreciated. He advocated for more limited use of the procedure.


An interview of the Washington University Medical Center Desegregation History Project, conducted by Edwin W. McCleskey and associates, 1990. Approximate Length: 67 minutes.

As background to the desegregation of hospitals and Washington University School of Medicine, Landau discusses his experiences with segregation in St. Louis as a child, and as medical student, house officer, and resident at Barnes Hospital and the school of medicine.

He mentions figures who played a role in desegregation, including David Goldring, Alexis Hartmann, Sr., and Park White, and discusses the obstruction to integration at Barnes from Frank Bradley, the director of the hospital, and the board of trustees. Landau also discusses the desegregation of the school of medicine.


Washington University Medical Center Desegregation History Project


Bernard Becker Medical Library Archives


Washington University School of Medicine, Saint Louis, Missouri

PC054-S09-B01-F20-i02_William_M_Landau_oral_history_audio_recording.mp3 (62717 kB)
William M. Landau Oral History Audio