Rudolph Virchow – the Father of Modern Pathology

Rudoplh Virchow

On October 13, 1821, German doctor, anthropologist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist, writer, editor, and politician, Rudolph Virchow was born. He is best known for his advancement of public health. Furthermore, he is also referred as “the father of modern pathology” because his work helped to discredit humorism, bringing more science to medicine. He is also considered one of the founders of social medicine.

Rudolph Virchow studied medicine and received his doctorate on pathology in 1843. Soon, he started working at the Charité Berlin, where he managed to prove the disease patterns of thrombosis. This work was very important and changed the way most medical scientists thought about blood diseases and their abilities to prevent them. Virchow’s reputation as well as curiosity grew and he started to establish an archive on pathological anatomy and physiology. Due to political reasons, Virchow was forced to leave Berlin, but he received several job offers around Europe and decided to continue his studies in Würzburg.

Until then, leukemia was a pretty unknown disease, well, it was known but hardly any scientists had enough knowledge to recognize its symptoms on humans, which Virchow changed in 1845. Probably one of the biggest periods of success Virchow’s started when he returned to Berlin and published his work on cellular pathology. He claimed that most diseases are based on disorders of the human body cells, which made him internationally famous. Too bad for Robert Remak and Friedrich Günzburg. The two scientists have worked on this topic for a long time and Virchow improved their achievements and published them without mentioning their efforts. Still, Virchow was an incredible scientist with interests in various fields, and in this period he started becoming an expert for the history of medicine as well. For the rest of his life, Virchow was known as a workcaholic, who could not wait to give another lecture or perform another experiment. In 1902, he jumped off a riding train to get to a lecture on time but broke his leg. He never completely cured and passed away in September of the same year.

Rudolph Virchow was not only an incredible scientist, he also stood up for a better health care for every citizen. He was one of the founders of municipal hospitals in several parts of Berlin and took care of open playgrounds for poor city areas. In the fields of hygiene, Virchow counted as one of the leading German experts, he counseled the German and foreign governments in this matter and introduced a drainage and fresh water system in Berlin.

At yovisto, you may enjoy a video lecture by Professor Donald Hoffman on ‘Virchow to Frozen Sections‘.

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