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  1. Rudolf Virchow, pathologist, anthropologist, and social thinker – Hektoen International
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  3. Rudolph Virchow – the Father of Modern Pathology

Rudolf Virchow : Four Lives in One. Leslie Dunn. This is a story of one of the most powerful spirits in history. This historical fiction is based on the true life of Rudolf Virchow, M.

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Virchow's story comes alive through the letters he wrote to his parents. After graduating medical school, Virchow was sent to study an outbreak of typhus. The diseased people groveled for food, kissed the hem of his coat, their children were content in foster care for the luxuries of food and heat.


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Virchow turned in a report but not what his superiors expected. It would be an understatement to write that his report was poorly received by the Prussian government. Eight days after it was submitted, however, Virchow was on the barricades in Berlin, fighting against that government. However, in a series of lectures in later published as a book Cellular Pathology as Based on Physiological and Pathologic Histology , the cell theory was advanced and gained acceptance. In Wuerzburg Virchow also defined hypertrophy and hyperplasia, distinguished between fatty infiltration and degeneration; described amyloid; and postulated a relationship between chronic inflammation and malignancy.

The body is cell state in which each cell is a citizen…. Disease is a conflict between the citizens of the state caused by outside forces…. Disease is not something personal or special, but only a manifestation of life under modified conditions, operating according to the same laws that apply to the living body at all times.

Rudolf Virchow

He also resisted the theory that a single bacterium could lead to disease, however, he did postulate that bacterial toxins could cause illness. He opposed many valid theories about bacterial origins of disease and had misconceptions about diphtheria, typhus, cholera, yellow fever, plague, leprosy, influenza, and the benefit of anti-toxin therapy. He did, however, reverse himself on almost all of his errors by A notable example of Virchow using his influence to improve public health is his role in the construction of the Berlin sewers.

In he was elected a member of the Berlin city council. He believed that citizens had a constitutional right to a healthful existence, that disease was often related to poor living conditions, and that epidemics were man made. In typhus reappeared in Berlin and East Prussia, and there was a very high rate of infant mortality. At that time waste disposal consisted of cesspools and outdoor privies and was often transported and used as fertilizer.

Only one quarter of houses had water closets. Deep gutters carried domestic and industrial waste to city canals and the Spree River. Waste gathered in city streets after a heavy rain. Virchow thought that water did not have to smell to be unhealthy and that waste was contaminating the water supply leading to disease. In the late s Virchow prepared a new sewerage system for Berlin.

Virchow consulted experts, set up committees, and examined financial, scientific, and technical problems in order to get the sewers built. He was confident that adaptation of sewerage farms as used in England would reduce disease.

Rudolf Virchow, pathologist, anthropologist, and social thinker – Hektoen International

Among other contributions, Virchow advocated the use of hospitals for patient care, instruction, and research. He established schools of nursing. He described the pathologic changes of rickets, characterized echinococcal cysts, described fungal nails, discovered the amino acids leucine and tyrosine, published a standard autopsy protocol, advocated an internationalist approach to medicine, and participated in numerous international conferences.

He described the lifecycle of Trichinella and instituted meat inspection in Germany and essentially eliminated it by as opposed to around in the United States. He described ochronosis, disproved the hereditary nature of leprosy, equipped hospital trains, and worked to improve conditions in schools, military barracks, and prisons, and eliminate child labor. On March 18, , eight days after returning from Silesia, a revolution against the government erupted in Berlin, as elsewhere in Europe, and Virchow was fighting on the barricades.

Temporarily, at least, liberals and democrats forced monarchs to accept outside influence. But their victory was short lived. By , reactionaries upper bureaucrats, royalists, Junkers were restored to power and an obedient parliament was put in place. The government suspended Virchow for his political activities.

He was reinstated, but with reduced privileges, prior to accepting a position in Wuerzburg. In , Virchow became professor at Berlin University.

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In , William I was appointed regent and then became king. This view of William proved to be premature; he was a professional soldier who believed he ruled by divine right. By Virchow had co-founded the German Progressive party and was elected to the Prussian parliament. In the elections, led by Virchow, it became its largest party. In February William dissolved parliament when his army reforms were refused. In the elections the Progressives and their allies achieved a majority in parliament.

A compromise between parliament and the army was almost reached, but was rejected by William.

Rudolph Virchow – the Father of Modern Pathology

Then William nominated the ambassador to France, Otto von Bismarck, to be prime minister and minister of foreign affairs. Bismarck was brilliant and cynical. He sent deputies home without mandated budget laws and ruled unconstitutionally by decree until In Bismarck, an experienced dueler, challenged Virchow. Legend has it that as the one challenged, Virchow, could choose the weapons and decided on pork sausages, cooked for him, and raw and filled with trichinella for Bismarck.

Although Bismarck was successful in his subsequent plans, Virchow did not give up political work. He remained on the Berlin city council until his death, and was elected to the Reichstag in In he discovered pile dwellings in Northern Germany. In he co-founded the German Anthropological Association and in he founded the Berlin Society of Anthropology, Ethnology, and Prehistory and edited its journal until his death.

Also in he excavated hill forts in Pomerania. A study of the Finnish race identified three racial types among modern Finns. A craniologic study of Germans, especially the Frisians, and an enormous survey of German school children. Teachers administered a survey to 6,, students.

It studied color, not measurements, and Jewish children were studied separately. Many rumors circulated about this study, perhaps the most amusing is that the King of Prussia lost a card game to the Sultan of Turkey and lost 40, fair-haired children in the bet. The conclusions of the study were a disappointment to those who believed in a superior Germanic race.