Lives of the fellows

Bror Anders Rexed

b.19 June 1914 d.21 August 2002
PhD(1945) FRCP(1974)

Bror Ander Rexed was a Swedish neuroscientist and professor at Uppsala University. Internationally, he is famous for his development of the system now known as Rexed laminae, but in Sweden, he is also known for his involvement in the ‘du-reformen’ of the Swedish language.

Born in Raxad, Varmland, he was the son of Daniel Magnusson, a merchant, and his wife Agda née Andersson. He gained a doctorate in medicine in 1945 and his thesis was on the subject of the post natal development of the peripheral nervous system. He was appointed associate professor of histology the same year. From 1953 to 1967, he was professor of anatomy at Uppsala University and then he moved to the Karolinska Institute.

In 1967 he was appointed director general of the National Board of Health and Welfare and, in his opening speech, announced that he would call everyone on the staff by the second person singular – ‘du’ in Swedish. Previously a very convoluted system had been used with many different caveats as to what would be considered a polite form of address. Change in this usage had already been initiated in the early 1960s, but Rexed is credited with making this egalitarian reform more acceptable to people in general.

He became head of the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control (UNFDAC) in 1978 and stayed in post until 1982 although he retired from his other roles in 1979. A board member of the medical board for foreign doctors from 1959, he was a member of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) for five years. In 1955 he was elected to the Royal Institute of Arts and Sciences in Uppsala and in 1963 he became a member of the Academy of Engineering Sciences.

In the early 1950s he published the research that was to result in his name being quoted in anatomical textbooks. In ‘The cytoarchitectonic organization of the spinal cord in the cat’ (J Comp Neurol, 1952, 96, 414-95) and ‘A cytoarchitectonic atlas of the spinal cord in the cat’ (J Comp Neurol, 1954, 100, 297-379) he defined the system of ten layers of grey matter in the spinal cord now known as ‘Rexed laminae’.

In 1941 he married Ursula Schalling, the daughter of Erik Schalling, an economist and Gerd Lavén, who was a lawyer. Ursula was also medically qualified.

He died in Helsinki in 2002.

RCP editor

[Wikipedia - accessed 27 March 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

<< Back to List