AKA Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow
Birthplace: Swidwin, Poland
Location of death: Berlin, Germany
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Old St. Matthews Cemetery, Berlin, Germany
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Doctor, Government
Executive summary: Pathology and progressive politics
As a young physician, Rudolf Virchow held the then-radical belief that disease originates in cells, not in tissues, organs, or entire organisms. He was a rebel even in medical school, conducting numerous experiments that repeatedly disproved the then-accepted notion that phlebitis was the cause of most diseases. As a medical researcher and teacher, he popularized the now-basic medical rule of "Omnis cellula e cellula", or "Every cell originates from another cell". His landmark work Cellular Pathology explained his discovery that disease, like life itself, occurs at a cellular level. He conducted medical research into the cause of pulmonary thromboembolisms, studied animal parasites that plague humans, and named leukemia ("white blood"), describing it correctly as a proliferation of the white cells. Also noted for his anthropological work, Virchow authored an 1885 study of craniometry that challenged the then-common belief in Aryan or Nordic racial superiority, showing that racial purity within European nations had been long-since lost and mattered little.
At 27 Dr Virchow was sent to investigate a typhus epidemic in Upper Silesia, and in his report he stated that such outbreaks were caused not merely by poor hygiene but by abject poverty, illiteracy, and economic and political subjugation. In essence, he wrote, public health demands "full and unrestrained democracy", and its opposite -- leaving people powerless over their circumstances -- contributes to the rapid spread of illness. From this point, along with his medical research, democracy became a vital interest in Virchow's life. He was actively involved in the pro-democracy movement that swept Germany in 1848, and was briefly barred from teaching after authoritarians retook power.
From 1859 until 1893 he served on the Berlin City Council, arguing for better public health controls, inspection of meat and poultry, and overseeing the installation of modern sewage disposal in the city. Serving concurrently in the German Reichstag, he proposed international disarmament and fought against his nation's growing militarism. He was an outspoken opponent of Otto von Bismarck's war plans, but during the Franco-German War, Virchow established the first hospital trains, bringing medical facilities to the war front, and served on a hospital train himself. At the height of his career, the world-renowned physician was offered noble status, with the new surname "von Virchow". He declined the honor.
Father: Carl Virchow (farmer)
Mother: Johanna HesseVirchow
Wife: Rose Mayer (b. 1832, m. 1850, three sons, three daughters)
Son: Hans Virchow (anatomy professor, b. 1852)
High School: Köslin Gymnasium, Köslin, Poland (1839)
Medical School: MD, Wilhelm Institute (1843)
Teacher: Pathological Anatomy, Wilhelm Institute (1846-47)
Professor: Pathology, Berlin University (1847-49)
Professor: Pathological Anatomy, University of Würzburg (1849-56)
Professor: Pathology, Berlin University (1856-93)
Copley Medal 1892
Author of books:
Cellular Pathology as Based upon Physiological and Pathological Histology (1859)
Post-Mortem Examinations, with Especial Reference to Medico-Legal Practice (1880)
Disease, Life, and Man: Selected essays (1958, posthumous)
Collected Essays on Public Health and Epidemiology (1985, posthumous)
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