The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Virchow, Rudolf

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Virchow, Rudolf
Edition of 1920. See also Rudolf Virchow on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

VIRCHOW, vēr'Hō, Rudolf, German scientist: b. Schivelbein, Prussia, 13 Oct. 1821; d. Berlin, 5 Sept. 1902. He studied medicine in Berlin in 1839-43, and in the latter year became a surgeon's assistant. From 1844 to 1846 he was assistant at the Charité Hospital, and in the latter year he became prosector there. He qualified in 1847 as a lecturer at the University of Berlin, and in that year also he was associated with Benno Reinhardt in founding the ‘Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und für klinische Medizin,’ world-famous as “Virchow's Archives,” which he edited alone from Reinhardt's death in 1852 till his own. He made himself known as a pronounced democrat in the year of revolution, 1848, and his political activity caused the government to remove him (1849) from his prosectorship, but he was soon reinstated, and accepted the chair of pathological anatomy at Würzburg. In 1852 he became joint editor of the Cannstatt reports on the progress of medicine, which he continued in conjunction with others till his death. In 1856 he returned to Berlin as professor of pathological anatomy, general pathology and therapeutics, and director of the recently founded pathological institute. He became a member of the Municipal Council of Berlin in 1859, and began his career as a civic reformer. Elected to the Prussian Diet in 1862, he became leader of the Radical or Progressive party; and in 1880-93 he was a member of the Reichstag. Virchow was a determined opponent of Bismark's policy, in 1865 was challenged to a duel by the “man of blood and iron.” He exercised especial influence in matters relating to public health, and during the wars of 1866 and 1870-71 he took an active part in organizing the army sanitary services. During his membership of 40 years in the Berlin Municipal Council he was active in promoting the sanitary improvement of the city. In 1870 he assisted in founding the Deutsche und Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie, und Urgeschichte, of which he was several times president and in 1879 he made a journey to the site of Troy, described in ‘Beiträge zur Landeskunde in Troas’ (1879) and ‘Alttrojanische Gräber und Schädel’ (1882). He visited England in 1893 and delivered the Croonian lecture to the Royal Society on ‘The Place of Pathology in Biological Studies,’ receiving on the occasion the honorary degree of D.C.L. from Oxford. In 1898 he delivered the Huxley lecture in London, his subject being ‘Recent Advances in Physiology.’

Virchow was the founder of cellular pathology, was scarcely less distinguished in archæology and anthropology and was the author of many important works, among which are ‘Handbuch der speciellen Pathologie und Therapie’ (1854-76), prepared in collaboration with others; ‘Vorlesungen über Cellularpathologie in ihrer Begründung auf physiologischer und pathologischer Gewebelehre’ (1859), his chief work, forming in the 4th edition the first volume of ‘Vorlesungen über Pathologie’ (1862-71); ‘Vier Reden über Leben und Kranksein’ (1862); ‘Ueber den Hungertyphus’ (1868); ‘Ueber einige Merkmale niederer Menschenrassen am Schädel’ (1875); ‘Beiträge zur physischen Anthropologie der Deutschen’ (1876); ‘Die Freiheit der Wissenschaft im Modernen Staat’ (1877); ‘Gesammelte Abhandlungen aus dem Gebiete der offentlichen Medizin und der Seuchenlehre’ (1879), etc. It was in fulfilment of the desires of Virchow that the German government erected in Berlin the Pathological Institute and Museum, the greatest institution of its kind in the world. Consult his ‘Life’ by Beecher (1801), and Pagel's ‘Rudolph Virchow’ (Leipzig 1906).