Rudolf Virchow: Wikis


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Rudolph Ludwig Karl Virchow

Rudolph Virchow
Born 13 October 1821 (1821-10-13)
Schivelbein (Pomerania)
Died 5 September 1902 (1902-09-06) (age 80)
Residence marcus miller
Nationality German
Fields Medicine
Known for Cellular pathology

Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow (13 October 1821 – 5 September 1902) was a German doctor, anthropologist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist and politician, known for his advancement of public health. Referred to as "the father of modern pathology," he is considered one of the founders of social medicine.


Medical terms named after Virchow

  • Virchow's angle, the angle between the nasobasilar line and the nasosubnasal line.
  • Virchow's cell, a macrophage in Hansen's disease.
  • Virchow's cell theory, "omnis cellula e cellula" - every living cell comes from another living cell.
  • Virchow's concept of pathology, comparison of diseases common to humans and animals.
  • Virchow's disease, leontiasis ossea, now recognized as a symptom rather than a disease.
  • Virchow's gland, Virchow's node.
  • Virchow's Law, during craniosynostosis, skull growth is restricted to a plane perpendicular to the affected, prematurely fused suture and is enhanced in a plane parallel to it.
  • Virchow's line, a line from the root of the nose to the lambda.
  • Virchow's metamorphosis, lipomatosis in the heart and salivary glands.
  • Virchow's method of autopsy, a method of autopsy where each organ is taken out one by one.
  • Virchow's node, the presence of metastatic cancer in a lymph-node in the supraclavicular fossa (root of the neck left of the midline). Also known as Troisier's sign.
  • Virchow's psammoma, psammoma bodies in meningiomas.
  • Virchow-Robin spaces, enlarged perivascular spaces (EPVS) (often only potential) that surround blood vessels for a short distance as they enter the brain.
  • Virchow-Seckel syndrome, a very rare disease also known as "bird-headed dwarfism".
  • Virchow's triad, the classic factors which precipitate venous thrombus formation: trauma, stasis and hypercoaguability.

He concluded that for cells to be created they must go through mitosis.

Scientific career

From a farming family, Virchow studied medicine and chemistry in Berlin at the Prussian Military Academy on a scholarship. When he graduated in 1843 he went to serve as Robert Froriep's assistant. One of his major contributions to German medical education was to encourage the use of microscopes by medical students and was known for constantly urging his students to 'think microscopically'. The campus where this Charité hospital is located is named after him, the Campus Virchow Klinikum.

Virchow is credited with multiple important discoveries. Virchow's most widely known scientific contribution is his cell theory, which built on the work of Theodor Schwann. He is cited as the first to recognize leukemia cells. He was one of the first to accept the work of Robert Remak who showed that the origins of cells was the division of preexisting cells.[1]. (Though he did not initially accept the evidence for cell division, believing that it only occurs in certain types of cells. When it dawned on him that Remak might be right, in 1855 he published Remak's work as his own which caused a falling out between the two)[2]. This Virchow encapsulated in the epigram Omnis cellula e cellula ("every cell originates from another existing cell like it.") which he published in 1858. (The epigram was actually coined by François-Vincent Raspail but popularized by Virchow).[3] It is a rejection of the concept of spontaneous generation, which held that organisms could arise from non-living matter. It was believed, for example, that maggots could spontaneously appear in decaying meat; Francesco Redi carried out experiments which disproved this. Redi's work gave rise to the maxim Omne vivum ex ovo ("every living thing comes from a living thing" [literally, "from an egg"]), Virchow (and his predecessors) extended this to state that the only source for a living cell was another living cell.

Another significant credit relates to the discovery, made approximately simultaneously by Virchow and Charles Emile Troisier, that an enlarged left supra-clavicular node is one of the earliest signs of gastrointestinal malignancy, commonly of the stomach, or less commonly, lung cancer. This has become known as Virchow's node and simultaneously Troisier's sign.

Virchow is also famous for elucidating the mechanism of pulmonary thromboembolism, coining the term embolism. He noted that blood clots in the pulmonary artery originate first from venous thrombi, stating: "The detachment of larger or smaller fragments from the end of the softening thrombus which are carried along by the current of blood and driven into remote vessels. This gives rise to the very frequent process on which I have bestowed the name of Embolia." Related to this research, Virchow described the factors contributing to venous thrombosis, Virchow's triad.

Furthermore, Virchow founded the medical fields of cellular pathology and comparative pathology (comparison of diseases common to humans and animals). His very innovative work may be viewed as sitting between that of Morgagni whose work Virchow studied, and that of Paul Ehrlich, who studied at the Charité while Virchow was developing microscopic pathology there.

Rudolph Virchow, by Hugo Vogel

In 1869 he founded the Society for anthropology, ethnology and prehistory (Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte) which was very influential in coordinating and intensifying German archaeological research. In 1885 he launched a study of craniometry, which gave surprising results according to contemporary scientific racist theories on the "Aryan race", leading him to denounce the "Nordic mysticism" in the 1885 Anthropology Congress in Karlsruhe. Josef Kollmann , a collaborator of Virchow, stated in the same congress that the people of Europe, be them German, Italian, English or French, belonged to a "mixture of various races," furthermore declaring that the "results of craniology" led to "struggle against any theory concerning the superiority of this or that European race" on others .[4]

In 1861, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In 1892 he was awarded the Copley Medal. Among his most famous students was anthropologist Franz Boas, who became a professor at Columbia University.

He was a very prolific writer. Some of his works are:

  • Mittheilungen über die in Oberschlesien herrschende Typhus-Epidemie, (1848)
  • Die Cellularpathologie in ihrer Begründung auf physiologische und pathologische Gewebelehre., (1858), English translation, (1860)
  • Handbuch der speciellen Pathologie und Therapie, (1854-62)
  • Vorlesungen über Pathologie, (1862-72)
  • Die krankhaften Geschwülste, (1863-67)
  • Gegen den Antisemitismus, (1880)

He also developed a standard method of autopsy procedure, named for him, that is still one of the two main techniques used today. More than a laboratory physician, Virchow was an impassioned advocate for social and political reform, stating that "Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale. Medicine, as a social science, as the science of human beings, has the obligation to point out problems and to attempt their theoretical solution: the politician, the practical anthropologist, must find the means for their actual solution....The physicians are the natural attorneys of the poor, and social problems fall to a large extent within their jurisdiction." His views are evident in his "Report on the Typhus Outbreak of Upper Silesia (1848), "writing that the outbreak could not be solved by treating individual patients with drugs or with minor changes in food, housing, or clothing laws, but only through radical action to promote the advancement of an entire population.[5] He is widely regarded as a pioneer of social medicine.[6] and anthropology."[7]

He died of heart failure. Virchow was buried in the St Matthews Cemetery in Schöneberg, Berlin.


Hostility toward antiseptics

Despite these many accomplishments in medicine, Virchow's reputation is somewhat tarnished by his rejection of and hostility towards the theory that bacteria cause disease. His attacks on Ignaz Semmelweis's advocacy of antisepsis delayed the use of antiseptics.[8]

Opposition to Darwinism

Virchow famously delivered an anti-Darwinian lecture on Menschen- und Affenschädel in which he emphasized the lack of fossil evidence for a common ancestor of man and ape.

Political career

Virchow also worked as a politician (member of the Berlin City Council, the Prussian parliament since 1861, German Reichstag 1880-1893) to improve the health care conditions for the Berlin citizens, namely working towards modern water and sewer systems. Virchow is also credited with the founding of "Social Medicine", frequently focusing on the fact that disease is never purely biological, but often, socially derived. As a co-founder and member of the liberal party (Deutschen Fortschrittspartei) he was a leading political antagonist of Bismarck.

It is said (though not confirmed) that Otto von Bismarck challenged Rudolf Virchow to a duel. Virchow, who as the challenged party had the choice of weapons, chose two sausages, one of which had been inoculated with cholera. Bismarck is said to have called off the duel at once.[9]

One area where he co-operated with Bismarck was in the Kulturkampf, the anti-clerical campaign against the Catholic Church[10] claiming that the anti-clerical laws bore "the character of a great struggle in the interest of humanity".[11] It was during the discussion of Falk’s May Laws (Maigesetze) that Virchow first used the term.[12]

Virchow was respected in Masonic circles,[13] and according to one source[14] may have been a freemason, though no official record of this has been found.

The Society for Medical Anthropology gives an annual award in Virchow's name, Rudolph Virchow Award.


  1. ^ A history of the life sciences, Lois N. Magner, p185
  2. ^ BBC The Cell by Dr. Adam Rutherford Ep.1 The Hidden Kingdom
  3. ^ Tan SY, Brown J (July 2006). "Rudolph Virchow (1821-1902): "pope of pathology"" (PDF). Singapore Med J 47 (7): 567–8. PMID 16810425. 
  4. ^ Andrea Orsucci, "Ariani, indogermani, stirpi mediterranee: aspetti del dibattito sulle razze europee (1870-1914), Cromohs, 1998 (Italian)
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Rx for Survival . Global Health Champions . Paul Farmer, MD, PhD | PBS at
  8. ^ HighBeam Encyclopedia
  9. ^ Isaac Asimov, Treasury of Humor, page 202.
  10. ^ "This anti-Catholic crusade was also taken up by the Progressives, especially Rudolf Virchow, though Richter himself was tepid in his occasional support." Authentic German Liberalism of the 19th Century by Ralph Raico
  11. ^ "The term came into use in 1873, when the scientist and Prussian liberal statesman Rudolf Virchow declared that the battle with the Roman Catholics was assuming “the character of a great struggle in the interest of humanity.”" from Kulturkampf. (2006). Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Retrieved March 25, 2006, from Encyclopædia Britannica
  12. ^ A leading German school teacher, Rudolf Virchow, characterized Bismarck's struggle with the Catholic Church as a Kulturkampf - a fight for culture - by which Virchow meant a fight for liberal, rational principles against the dead weight of medieval traditionalism, obscurantism, and authoritarianism." from The Triumph of Civilization by Norman D. Livergood and "Kulturkampf \Kul*tur"kampf`\, n. [G., fr. kultur, cultur, culture + kampf fight.] (Ger. Hist.) Lit., culture war; - a name, originating with Virchow (1821 - 1902), given to a struggle between the Roman Catholic Church and the German government" Kulturkampf in
  13. ^ "Rizal's Berlin associates, or perhaps the word "patrons" would give their relation better, were men as esteemed in Masonry as they were eminent in the scientific world--Virchow, for example." in JOSE RIZAL AS A MASON by AUSTIN CRAIG, The Builder Magazine, August 1916 - Volume II - Number 8
  14. ^ "It was a heady atmosphere for the young Brother, and Masons in Germany, Dr. Rudolf Virchow and Dr. Feodor Jagor, were instrumental in his becoming a member of the Berlin Ethnological and Anthropological Societies." From Dimasalang: The Masonic Life Of Dr. Jose P. Rizal By Reynold S. Fajardo, 33° by Fred Lamar Pearson, Scottish Rite Journal, October 1998

Further reading

  • Becher, Rudolf Virchow, Berlin, (1891)
  • J. L. Pagel, Rudolf Virchow, Leipzig, (1906)
  • Erwin H. Ackerknecht, Rudolf Virchow: Doctor, Statesman, Anthropologist, Madison, (1953)
  • Virchow, RLK (1978) Cellular pathology. 1859 special ed., 204-207 John Churchill London, UK.
  • The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes by Tomás de Comyn at Project Gutenberg , available at Project Gutenburg (co-authored by Virchow with Tomás Comyn, Fedor Jagor, and Chas Wilkes)
  • (1) Rudolf Virchow, Menschen- und Affenschadeh Vortrag gehalten am 18. Febr. 1869 im Saale des Berliner Handwerkervereins. Berlin: Luderitz, (1870)
  • Eisenberg, L. "Rudolf Virchow: the physician as politician" Medicine and War 1986;2(4):243-250.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow (October 13, 1821September 5, 1902) was a German doctor, anthropologist, public health activist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist and politician.


  • For if medicine is really to accomplish its great task, it must intervene in political and social life. It must point out the hindrances that impede the normal social functioning of vital processes, and effect their removal.
    • 1849 (quoted in Pathologies of Power, by Paul Farmer, page 323)
  • Medical statistics will be our standard of measurement: we will weigh life for life and see where the dead lie thicker, among the workers or among the privileged.
    • 1848 (quoted in Infections and Inequalities by Paul Farmer, page 1
  • Omnis cellula e cellula
    • Every cell from a cell
  • "Between animal and human medicine, there is no dividing line—nor should there be."
    • 1856 (Quoted in: Klauder JV: Interrelations of human and veterinary medicine. N Engl J Med 1958, 258:170-177)


  • The task of science is to stake out the limits of the knowable, and to center consciousness within them.

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

RUDOLF VIRCHOW (1821-1902), German pathologist and politician, was born on the 13th of October 1821 at Schivelbein, in Pomerania, where his father was a small farmer and shopkeeper. As a boy he attended the Volksschule of his native village, and at the age of seventeen, having passed through the gymnasium of Kdslin, went to Berlin to study medicine. He took his doctor's degree in 1843, and almost immediately received an appointment as assistant-surgeon at the Charite Hospital, becoming pro-rector three years later. In 1847 he began to act as Privatdozent in the university, and founded with Reinhardt the Archiv fiir pathologische Anatomie and Physiologic, which, after his collaborator's death in 1852, he carried on alone, and in 1848 he went as a member of a government commission to investigate an outbreak of typhus in upper Silesia. About the same time, having shown too open sympathy with the revolutionary or reforming tendencies of 1848, he was for; olitical reasons obliged to leave Berlin and retire to the seclusion of Wiirzburg, the medical school of which profited enormously by his labours as professor of pathological anatomy, and secured a wide extension of its reputation. In 1856 he was recalled to Berlin as ordinary professor of pathological anatomy in the university, and as director of the Pathological Institute formed a centre for research whence has flowed a constant stream of original work on the nature and processes of disease. On the r4th of October 190r his eightieth birthday was celebrated in Berlin amid a brilliant gathering of men of science, part of the ceremonies taking place in the new Pathological Museum, near the Charite, which owes its existence mainly to his energy and powers of organization. On that occasion all Europe united to do him honour, many learned societies sent delegates to express their congratulations, the king of Italy gave him his own portrait on a gold medallion, and among the numerous addresses he received was one from Kaiser Wilhelm II., who took the opportunity of presenting him with the Grand Gold Medal for Science. In the early part of 1902 he slipped from a tramcar in Berlin and fractured his thigh; from this injury he never really recovered, and his death occurred in Berlin on the 5th of September 5902.

Wide as were Virchow's studies, and successful as he was in all, yet the foremost place must be given to his achievements in pathological investigation. He may, in fact, be called the father of modern pathology, for his view, that every animal is constituted by a sum of vital units, each of which manifests the characteristics of life, has almost uniformly dominated the theory of disease.since the middle of the 59th century, when it was enunciated. The beginnings of his doctrine of cellular pathology date from the earliest period in his career. When, towards the end of his student-days in Berlin, he was acting as clinical assistant in the eye department of the Berlin Hospital, he noticed that in keratitis and corneal wounds healing took place without the appearance of plastic exudation. This observation led him to further work, and he succeeded in showing that in vascular organs the presence of cells in inflammatory exudates is not the result of exudation but of multiplication of pre-existing cells. Eventually he was able to prove that the biological doctrine of omnis cellula ecellula applies to pathological processes as well as to those of normal growth, and in his famous book on Cellular-pathologic, published at Berlin in 1858, he established what Lord Lister described as the "true and fertile doctrine that every morbid structure consists of cells which have been derived from pre-existing cells as a progeny." But in addition to bringing forward a fundamental and philosophical view of morbid processes, which probably contributed more than any other single cause to vindicate for pathology the place which he claimed for it among the biological sciences, Virchow made many important contributions to histology and morbid anatomy and to the study of particular diseases. The classification into epithelial organs, connective tissues, and the more specialized muscle and nerve, was largely due to him; and he proved the presence of neuroglia in the brain and spinal cord, discovered crystalline haematoidine, and made out the structure of the umbilical cord. Medical science further owes to him the classification of new growths on a natural histological basis, the elucidation of leucaemia, glioma and lardaceous tumours, and detailed investigations into many diseases - tuberculosis, pyaemia, diphtheria, leprosy, typhus, &c. Among the books he published on pathological and medical subjects may be mentioned Vorlesungen fiber Pathologic, the first volume of which was the Cellular-pathologic (1858), and the remaining three Die Krankhaften Geschwiilste (1863-67); Handbuch der speziellen Pathologic and Therapie (3 vols., 1854-62), in collaboration with other German surgeons; Gesammelte Abhandlungen zur wissenschaftlichen Medizin (1856); Vier Reden fiber Leben and Kranksein (1862); Untersuchungen fiber die Entwicklung des Schlidelgrundes (1857); Lehre von den Trichinen (1865); Ueber den Hunger-typhus (1868); and Gesammelte Abhandlungen aus dem Gebiete der afentlichen Medizin and der Seuchenlehre (1879). In England his pathological work won general recognition. The Royal Society awarded him the Copley medal in 5892, and selected him as Croonian lecturer in the following year, his subject being the position of pathology among the biological sciences; and in 1898 he delivered the second Huxley memorial lecture at Charing Cross Hospital.

Another science which Virchow cultivated with conspicuous success was anthropology, which he did much to put on a sound critical basis. At the meeting of the Naturforscherversammlung at Innsbruck in 1869, he was one of the founders of the German Anthropological Society, of which he became president in the following year; and from 1869 onwards he presided over the Berlin Anthropological Society, also acting as editor of its proceedings in the Zeitschrift fiir Ethnologic. In ethnology he published a volume of essays on the physical anthropology of the Germans, with special reference to the Frisians; and at his instance a census, which yielded remarkable results, was carried out among school children throughout Germany, to determine the relative distribution of blondes and brunettes. His archaeological work included the investigation of lake dwellings and other prehistoric structures; he went with Schliemann to Troy in 1879, fruits of the expedition being two books, ZurLandeskunde der Troas (1880) and Alt-trojanische Gr p ber and Schad (1882); in 1881 he visited the Caucasus, and on his return published Das Graberfeld von Koban im Lande der Osseten; and in 1888 he accompanied Schliemann to Egypt, Nubia and the Peloponnese.

As a politician Virchow had an active career. In 1862 he was elected a member of the Prussian Lower House. Professing advanced Liberal and democratic views, he was a founder and. leader of the Fortschrittspartei, and the expression Kulturkampf had, it is believed, its origin in one of his electoral manifestoes. For many years he was chairman of the finance committee, and in that capacity may be looked upon as a chief founder of the constitutional Prussian Budget system. In 1880 he entered the Reichstag as representative of a Berlin constituency, but was ousted in 1893 by a Social Democrat. In the Reichstag he became the leader of the Opposition, and a vigorous antagonist to Bismarck. In the local and municipal politics of Berlin again he took a leading part, and as a member of the municipal council was largely responsible for the transformation which came over the city in the last thirty years of the 19th century. That it has become one of the healthiest cities in the world from being one of the unhealthiest is attributable in great measure to his insistence on the necessity of sanitary reform, and it was his unceasing efforts that secured for its inhabitants the drainage system, the sewage farms and the good water-supply, the benefits of which are reflected in the decreased death-rate they now enjoy. In respect cf hospitals and the treatment of the sick his energy and knowledge were of enormous advantage to his country, both in times of peace and of war, and the unrivalled accommodation for medical treatment possessed by Berlin is a standing tribute to his name, which will be perpetuated in one of the largest hospitals of the city.

Of his writings on social and political questions may be mentioned Die Erziehung des Weibes (1865); Ueber die nationals Entwicklung and Bedeutung der Naturwissenschaften (1865); Die Aufgaben der Naturwissenschaften in dem neuen nationalen Leben Deutschlands (1871); Die Freiheit der Wissenschaft im modernen Staat (1877), in which he opposed the idea of l - L eckel - that the principles of evolution should be taught in elementary schools - on the ground that they were not as yet proved, and that it was mischievous to teach a hypothesis which still remained in the speculative stage.

See Lives by Becher (Berlin, 1894) and Pagel (Leipzig, 1906); Rudolf Virchow als Patholog by Marchand (Munich, 1902); Rudolf Virchow als Arzt by Ebstein (Stuttgart, 1903); Geddchtnisrede auf R. Virchow (Berlin, 1903); and Briefe Virchows an seine Eltern 1839-1864, by Marie Rabl (Leipzig, 1907). A bibliography of his works was published at Berlin in 1901.

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Simple English

Rudolf Virchow

Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow (13 October 1821 – 5 September 1902) was a German doctor, anthropologist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist and politician, known for his advancement of public health. Referred to as "the father of pathology," he is considered one of the founders of social medicine.

He coined the catch-phrase omnis cellula e cellula, meaning, cells only derive from other cells.


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