Dreschfeld, Julius (DNB12)

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DRESCHFELD, JULIUS (1846–1907), physician and pathologist, born at Niederwaren, near Bamberg, Bavaria, in 1846, was youngest son in the family of five sons and five daughters of Samuel Dreschfeld, a well-to-do merchant, by his wife Giedel (Elizabeth), a well-educated woman who had been acquainted with Napoleon I. The parents were orthodox Jews who were highly respected in their neighbourhood. The father lived till ninety-two and the mother till ninety-seven. After early education at Bamberg, Julius went with his mother to Manchester in 1861. Entering the Owens College, he took prizes in the English language, mathematics, and science. In 1863 he gained the Dalton chemical prize with an essay on 'The Chemical and Physical Properties of Water,' and in 1864 the Dalton junior mathematical scholarship. His medical education was received at the Manchester Royal School of Medicine (Pine Street). In 1864 he returned to Bavaria and continued his medical study at the university of Würzburg, where he graduated M.D. and acted for a time as assistant to von Bezold, professor of physiology. In 1866 he saw active service as an assistant army surgeon in the Bavarian army during the Austro -Prussian war. Whilst at Würzburg he paid special attention, under Virchow, to pathology, the branch of medical science to which he devoted himself in later years. In 1869 he returned to England, and after becoming licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in London settled down in practice in Manchester. In 1872 ho was appointed honorary physician to the Hulme Dispensary, Manchester. Next year he became an honorary assistant physician at the Manchester Royal Infirmary; in 1883, on the resignation of Sir William Roberts, [q. v. Suppl. I], honorary physician, and in due course senior honorary physician in 1899. His association with the active staff of the infirmary lasted until October 1905, when, on reaching the age limit, he became an honorary consulting physician. Even then he was granted the unique privilege of having a few beds in the infirmary allotted to him and was asked to continue his clinical teaching there.

Meanwhile Dreschfeld was pursuing the study of pathology. In 1875 he supervised the pathological section of the medical museum at Owens College and classified and catalogued the specimens. In 1876 he began to lecture in pathology, and the efficiency with which he conducted his department led in 1881 to his appointment as professor of general pathology and morbid anatomy and also of morbid histology, the first chairs in these subjects in England. His pathological laboratory was said to be the first of its kind in England. The number of Dreschfeld's students rose from three in 1873 to 110 in 1891. His lectures were models of i clearness, conciseness, and completeness. Through his influence pathology and morbid anatomy was made a special subject in the medical examinations of the Victoria University and not part of the medicine and surgery papers. This reform was soon followed by other examining bodies throughout the kingdom. In 1891 Dreschfeld withdrew from his pathological chair to become professor of medicine on the resignation of Dr. John Edward Morgan, and he retained that post till death.

Dreschfeld read widely the work of German clinicians and pathologists, and tested it in his own wards or laboratories. He was near forestalling Pasteur in the latter's classical researches on hydrophobia. In 1882-3, when Pasteur had just published his researches on 'intensification' and 'diminution' of the poison of anthrax, which led to his results on 'immunisation,' Dreschfeld, in view of the presence of hydrophobia in Man Chester, worked on hydrophobia poison on Pasteur's lines. He was apparently approaching success in attenuating its virulence sufficiently to use it for purposes of immunisation when the Vivisection Act stopped his work, no record of which was published. At the same time Dreschfeld was long the best- known consulting physician in the north of England, being specially in demand as a neurologist. At the Royal College of Physicians, of which he became a member in 1875 and a fellow in 1883, he delivered the Bradshawe lecture 'on diabetic coma' in 1887. He was preparing the Lumleian lectures on a subject connected with food and digestion at his death. Dreschfeld took a prominent part in many local medical, scientific, and philanthropic societies. A slowly progressing disease of the spinal cord from which he suffered since 1897 scarcely affected his varied industry. He died suddenly from angina pectoris on 13 June 1907. He was buried in Holy Trinity churchyard, Hoghton Street, Southport.

He was married twice: (1) in 1888 to Selina, daughter of Felix Gaspari of Berlin, by whom he had two sons and two daughters, who survive him; and (2) in 1905, to Ethel, daughter of Dr. James Harvey Lilley of Leamington, who survives him. Dreschfeld wrote no book, but published over 120 papers in English and German journals, besides contributing admirable articles on infective endocarditis, ulcer of the stomach and duodenum, and typhoid fever to Sir Clifford Allbutt's 'System of Medicine.' He was the first to recommend the now widely used dye eosin in watery solution as a stain for animal tissues; he recorded the first post-mortem in a case of primary lateral sclerosis, previously described clinically by Erb and Charcot; he described creeping pneumonia, now known as influenzal pneumonia, alcoholic paralysis, a disease which he worked out with James Ross, and the lung complications of diabetes. With strong and impressive Jewish features, Dreschfeld spoke English readily with a rather guttural and foreign intonation. A portrait in oils, painted posthumously by George Harcourt, hangs in the medical school of the Victoria University. The Dreschfeld memorial volume, which contains a biography, portrait, and bibliography, with scientific papers written by his former colleagues and students, was published in 1908.

A scholarship to his memory was founded in the Victoria University, to be awarded on the results of the entrance examination for medical students of the university.

[Personal knowledge; private information; Medical Chronicle, Nov. 1907 (with portrait); Dreschfeld Memorial Volume, ed. by Dr. E. M. Brockbank, 1908 (with collotype portrait); Brit. Med. Journal, 22 June 1907 (portrait); Lancet, 29 June 1907; Manchester Guardian, 14 June 1907 (portrait).]

E. M. B.