Carl Ludwig and Modern Physiology

Carl Ludwig (1816 – 1895)

Carl Ludwig (18161895)

On December 29, 1816German physician and physiologist Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig was born. Ludwig was one of the creators of modern physiology. He applied the experimental approach of chemistry and physics to explain the way the body functions. Ludwig investigated the structure of the kidneys and cardiac activity.

Carl Ludwig studied medicine in Erlangen and Marburg. At Marburg, he earned his doctor’s degree in 1839 and continued to study and teach anatomy and physiology there. He later was appointed private docent and extraordinary professor. In 1849, Ludwig was appointed professor of anatomy and physiology at Zurich. He later moved to Vienna, where Ludwig was appointed professor at the Josephinum school for military surgeons. In 1865, Ludwig received the chair of physiology in Leipzig.

Ludwig became friends with Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz, Ernst Wilhelm von Brücke, and Emil du Bois-Reymond. They rejected the assumption that the phenomena of living animals depend on special biological laws and vital forces different from those that operate in the domain of inorganic nature. He sought to explain them by reference to the same laws as are applicable in the case of physical and chemical phenomena.

As part of his research, Ludwig was able to show that if the nerves are appropriately stimulated the salivary glands continue to secrete, even though the animal be decapitated, he initiated the method of experimenting with excised organs. Ludwig developed the kymograph as a means of obtaining a written record of the variations in the pressure of the blood in the blood vessels. The device enabled the scientist to make use of the graphic method in physiological inquiries. Ludwig further developed the mercurial blood-pump that was used for investigations into gases of the lymph, the gaseous interchanges in living muscle, and the significance of oxidized material in the blood.

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