1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pettenkofer, Max Joseph von

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20124321911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 21 — Pettenkofer, Max Joseph von

PETTENKOFER, MAX JOSEPH VON (1818–1901), Bavarian chemist and hygienist, was born on the 3rd of December 1818 at Lichtenheim, near Neuburg. He was a nephew of Franz Xaver Pettenkofer (1783–1850), who from 1823 was surgeon and apothecary to the Bavarian court and was the author of some chemical investigations on the vegetable alkaloids He studied pharmacy and medicine at Munich, where he graduated M.D. in 1843, and after working under Liebig at Giessen was appointed chemist to the Munich mint in 1845. Two years later he was chosen extraordinary professor of chemistry in the medical faculty, in 1853 he received the ordinary professorship, and in 1865 he became also professor of hygiene. In 1894 he retired from active work, and on the 10th of February 1901 he shot himself in a fit of depression at his home on the Starnberger See, near Munich. In his earlier years he devoted himself to chemistry, both theoretical and applied, publishing papers on the preparation of gold and platinum, numerical relations between the atomic weights of analogous elements, the formation of aventurine glass, the manufacture of illuminating gas from wood, the preservation of oil-paintings, &c. The reaction known by his name for the detection of bile acids was published in 1844. In his widely used method for the quantitative determination of carbonic acid the gaseous mixture is shaken up with baryta or lime water of known strength and the change in alkalinity ascertained by means of oxalic acid. But his name is most familiar in connexion with his work in practical hygiene, as an apostle of good water, fresh air and proper sewage disposal. His attention was drawn to this subject about 1850 by the unhealthy condition of Munich.

Pettenkofer gave vigorous expression to his views on hygiene and disease in numerous books and papers; he was an editor of the Zeitschrift für Biologie from 1865 to 1882, and of the Archiv für Hygiene from 1883 to 1894.