1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Koch, Robert

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KOCH, ROBERT (1843-1910), German bacteriologist, was born at Klausthal, Hanover, on the 11th of December 1843. He studied medicine at Göttingen, and it was while he was practising as a physician at Wollstein that he began those bacteriological researches that made his name famous. In 1876 he obtained a pure culture of the bacillus of anthrax, announcing a method of preventive inoculation against that disease seven years later. He became a member of the Sanitary Commission at Berlin and a professor at the School of Medicine in 1880, and five years later he was appointed to a chair in Berlin University and director of the Institute of Health. In 1882, largely as the result of the improved methods of bacteriological investigation he was able to elaborate, he discovered the bacillus of tuberculosis; and in the following year, having been sent on an official mission to Egypt and India to study the aetiology of Asiatic cholera, he identified the comma bacillus as the specific organism of that malady. In 1890 great hopes were aroused by the announcement that in tuberculin he had prepared an agent which exercised an inimical influence on the growth of the tubercle bacillus, but the expectations that were formed of it as a remedy for consumption were not fulfilled, though it came into considerable vogue as a means of diagnosing the existence of tuberculosis in animals intended for food. At the Congress on Tuberculosis held in London in 1901 he maintained that tuberculosis in man and in cattle is not the same disease, the practical inference being that the danger to men of infection from milk and meat is less than from other human subjects suffering from the disease. This statement, however, was not regarded as properly proved, and one of its results was the appointment of a British Royal Commission to study the question. Dr Koch also investigated the nature of rinderpest in South Africa in 1896, and found means of combating the disease. In 1897 he went to Bombay at the head of a commission formed to investigate the bubonic plague, and he subsequently undertook extensive travels in pursuit of his studies on the origin and treatment of malaria. He was summoned to South Africa a second time in 1903 to give expert advice on other cattle diseases, and on his return was elected a member of the Berlin Academy of Sciences. In 1906-1907 he spent eighteen months in East Africa, investigating sleeping-sickness. He died at Baden-Baden of heart-disease on the 28th of May 1910. Koch was undoubtedly one of the greatest bacteriologists ever known, and a great benefactor of humanity by his discoveries. Honours were showered upon him, and in 1905 he was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine.

Among his works may be mentioned: Weitere Mitteilungen über ein Heilmittel gegen Tuberkulose (Leipzig, 1891); and Reiseberichte über Rinderpest, Bubonenpest in Indien und Afrika, Tsetse- oder Surra-Krankheit, Texasfieber, tropische Malaria, Schwarzwasserfieber (Berlin, 1898). From 1886 onwards he edited, with Dr Karl Flugge, the Zeitschrift für Hygiene und Infektionskrankheiten (published at Leipzig). See Loeffler, “Robert Koch, zum 60ten Geburtstage” in Deut. Medizin. Wochenschr. (No. 50, 1903).