The Medical Breakthroughs of Ernst Ferdinand Sauerbruch

Ferdinand Sauerbruch

Ferdinand Sauerbruch

On July 3, 1875, German surgeon Ernst Ferdinand Sauerbruch was born. He is considered as one of the most important and influential surgeons of the 20th century. He developed the Sauerbruch chamber, a pressure chamber for operating on the open thorax.

Ferdinand Sauerbruch studied medicine at the University of Magdeburg, the University of Greifswald, the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena, and the University of Leipzig. He graduated in 1902 and went to Breslau where he developed the Sauerbruch chamber, a pressure chamber for operating on the open thorax, which he demonstrated in 1904. This invention by Sauerbach and his teacher was a breakthrough in thorax medicine. The method allowed heart and lung operations to take place at greatly reduced risk. During World War I, Sauerbruch developed several new types of limb prostheses, which for the first time enabled simple movements to be executed with the remaining muscle of the patient.

In the years starting from 1908, Sauerbruch was appointed physician and professor at various cities including Marburg, Zurich, Berlin, and Munich. It has been reported that Sauerbruch also took care of Adolf Hitler’s shoulder after he had run from the police in 1923. With the rise of the Nazi Party, Sauerbruch participated in a letter supporting Adolf Hitler and was announced state council by Hermann Göring. Sauerbruch was appointed member of the ‘Reichsforschungsrat’ and approved various experiments presumably performed on prisoners of the concentration camps.

During his active years as a surgeon, Ferdinand Sauerbruch became one of the most influential surgeons of the 20th century. Next to his work on the thorax medicine, Sauerbruch developed several prothesis including the so-called Sauerbruch Arm. To his patients also belonged Hanno Hahn, the son of Otto Hahn and Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg who was one of the leading members of the failed 20 July plot of 1944 to assassinate Adolf Hitler and remove the Nazi Party from power.

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