Louis L. Bergmann, 1907-1992

Publication Year: 1993.



Louis M. Bergmann, M.D., a member of the American Alpine Club since 1949, passed away after a long illness on January 4, 1992 in his 84th year. Bom in Austria, he received his medical degree from the University of Vienna in 1932. In 1934, he spent a year in China, helping to develop a medical program for Chiang Kai-Shek’s government. Emigrating to the United States in 1938, he joined the faculty of the New York University Medical School and New York Medical College, where he became a Professor of Anatomy and Neuroanatomy. An inspiring instructor and mentor, he won numerous teaching awards. He left a profound impact on many lives and careers, a fact that became very evident when at his memorial service scores of his former colleagues and students came forth to remember him fondly.

There was another important dimension to this scholar and teacher. Beginning at an early age, Lou was a skilled alpinist and skier. He was one of the very first Austrian ski instructors, learning his craft from the great Hannes Schneider, founder of the Arlberg technique. In 1949, he applied for membership in the American Alpine Club and was quickly accepted. In reviewing his record, the Board said, “Dr. Bergmann’s outstanding record of 103 ascents includes climbs from every year from 1921 to 1937. Many trips were guideless and under winter conditions.” A photograph of Lou on the Biancograt, that great stairway in the sky, is one of the great classics of Alpine photography and hangs in the American Alpine Club museum. After his first wife Herta died, he lost no time in making his second wife Marianne a willing accomplice to his climbing passions. Together, they made numerous ascents in the Alps and Canadian Rockies during their summer holidays.

Lou had a great gift of communicating the joy of mountain experiences—as a writer, artist and illustrator—always with style and a gentle, self-effacing humor. For Lou loved being among the mountains more than conquering them. They were his friends and life-long companions. Lou loved to share and to give. Six years ago at the New York Section Annual Dinner, Lou contributed ten of his finest oils and watercolors, the lion’s share of his personal collection to be sold for the benefit of the American Alpine Journal Publishing Fund. The works weren’t on exhibit very long when a well-known Texan and ski-resort owner bought the entire collection, at list price. I thought Lou would have second thoughts about parting with his “babies,” but this wasn’t the case. He was happy because others would now get pleasure from his efforts.

So the Lou Bergmann many of us knew—pioneer skier, climber, writer, artist and illustrator—has gone on ahead. He leaves a legacy more important than his many accomplishments: an enthusiasm for life and people and the sharing of life’s experiences and accomplishments. The last paragraph of Mountain Memories, a beautifully illustrated autobiographical sketch, written just before his health began to fail, reads, “Looking back to all the years spent in the mountains, I cherish the most glorious recollections as well as I recall the hours of toil and fear. I have only one regret: It’s over.”

We will miss the Berg-mann, this man of the mountains.

Philip Erard