1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ludwig, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm

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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 17
Ludwig, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm
See also Carl Ludwig on Wikipedia; and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer.

LUDWIG, KARL FRIEDRICH WILHELM (1816–1895), German physiologist, was born at Witzenhausen, near Cassel, on the 29th of December 1816. He studied medicine at Erlangen and Marburg, taking his doctor's degree at Marburg in 1839. He made Marburg his home for the next ten years, studying and teaching anatomy and physiology, first as prosector to F. L. Flick (1841), then as privat-docent (1842), and finally as extraordinary professor (1846). In 1849 he was chosen professor of anatomy and physiology at Zürich, and six years afterwards he went to Vienna as professor in the Josephinum (school for military surgeons). In 1865 he was appointed to the newly created chair of physiology at Leipzig, and continued there until his death on the 23rd of April 1895. Ludwig's name is prominent in the history of physiology, and he had a large share in bringing about the change in the method of that science which took place about the middle of the 19th century. With his friends H. von Helmholtz, E. W. Brücke and E. Du Bois-Reymond, whom he met for the first time in Berlin in 1847, he rejected the assumption that the phenomena of living animals depend on special biological laws and vital forces different from those which operate in the domain of inorganic nature; and he sought to explain them by reference to the same laws as are applicable in the case of physical and chemical phenomena. This point of view was expressed in his celebrated Text-book of Human Physiology (1852-1856), but it is as evident in his earliest paper (1842) on the process of urinary secretion as in all his subsequent work. Ludwig exercised enormous influence on the progress of physiology, not only by the discoveries he made, but also by the new methods and apparatus he introduces to its service. Thus in regard to secretion, he showed that secretory glands, such as the submaxillary, are more than mere filters, and that their secretory action is attended by chemical and thermal changes both in themselves and in the blood passing through them. He demonstrated the existence of a new class of secretory nerves that control this action, and by showing that if the nerves are appropriately stimulated the salivary glands continue to secrete, even though the animal be decapitated, he initiated the method of experimenting with excised organs. He devised the kymograph as a means of obtaining a written record of the variations in the pressure of the blood in the blood-vessels; and this apparatus not only conducted him to many important conclusions respecting the mechanics of the circulation, but afforded the first instance of the use of the graphic method in physiological inquiries. For the purpose of his researches on the gases in the blood, he designed the mercurial blood-pump which in various modifications has come into extensive use, and by its aid he made many investigations on the gases of the lymph, the gaseous interchanges in living muscle, the significance of oxidized material in the blood, &c. There is indeed scarcely any branch of physiology, except the physiology of the senses, to which he did not make important contributions. He was also a great power as a teacher and the founder of a school. Under him the Physiological Institute at Leipzig became an organized centre of physiological research, whence isssued a steady stream of original work; and though the papers containing the results usually bore the name of his pupils only, every investigation was inspired by him and carried out under his personal direction. Thus his pupils gained a practical acquaintance with his methods and ways of thought, and, coming from all parts of Europe, they returned to their own countries to spread and extend his doctrines. Possessed himself of extraordinary manipulative skill, he abhorred rough and clumsy work, and he insisted that experiments on animals should be planned and prepared with the utmost care, not only to avoid the infliction of pain (which was also guarded against by the use of an anaesthetic), but to ensure that the deductions drawn from them should have their full scientific value.