The New International Encyclopædia/Virchow, Rudolf

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
The New International Encyclopædia
Virchow, Rudolf
Edition of 1905. See also Rudolf Virchow on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

VIRCHOW, vḗr'K, Rudolf (1821-1902). An eminent German pathologist, anthropologist, and scholar, born at Schivelbein, Prussia. He was graduated in medicine in Berlin and became prosector of anatomy in the faculty, sharing the companionship of Henle, Schwann, Brücke, Helmholtz, Du Bois-Reymond, and other scholars who were destined to become distinguished discoverers of important medical facts. He became, in 1847, lecturer at the University of Berlin. Soon afterwards he was commissioned by the Government to investigate the cause and cure of typhus in Silesia. He founded, at this time, the Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie, of which he remained editor till his death, and which is celebrated the world over as “Virchow's Archives.” The political commnotions of 1848 dragged him, in common with many other votaries of science, into the revolutionary vortex. He established a journal entitled the Medical Reformer, and also a democratic club, where he soon distinguished himself as an orator. On account of his political opinions. Virchow lost his post in 1849, and, though reinstated afterwards, he accepted in the same year a call to the chair of pathological anatomy in Würzburg. His lectures at that university were widely popular for the novel views which he advanced, particularly in cellular pathology. His reputation grew so great that he was recalled in 1856 to Berlin, where he re-occupied the chair of pathological anatomy, and rendered it the most famous of its kind in Kurope. In 1859 he became a member of the Municipal Council of Berlin, where he distinguished himself as a reformer of the arbitrary police system then rampant. In 1862 he was chosen Deputy to the Prussian Diet, and soon rose to the leadership of the opposition, and proved a most effective antagonist of the encroachments made in name of the royal prerogative. He was one of the founders of the Fortschrittspartei (Progressists), and both as such and as a subsequent member of the deutsch-freisinnige party he was one of the most prominent figures of the German Reichstag from 1880 to 1893.

The first edition of his master-work, Cellular-pathologie, was published in 1858, and attracted at once the attention and admiration, and later won the acceptance of the medical world, displacing the former pathological systems and theories for all time. (See Pathology.) His views were so clear, his theory so perfect, and his grasp of the matter so comprehensive that his fame was at once assured. His work upon tumors is of especial value, as it holds the practical and clinical aspects of the matter as of prime importance — a circumstance that is remarkable in view of the fact that Virchow was not a practitioner of medicine. His views combated the pessimistic theories of Rokitansky and the prevailing Vienna school of pathologists. His work in pathology is distinctly a creation, establishing the biologic principle that the laws working in disease are not different from those in operation in health, though subject to different conditions. The cellular theory was finally established in 1858. During the wars of 1866 and 1870-71, Virchow devoted himself to arranging, equipping and drilling hospital corps and ambulance squads, and directed the management of numbers of hospital trains, also taking charge of the immense Berlin military hospital, as well as of the sanitary arrangements of the troops in the field. The Franco-Prussian War ended, Virchow became a member of the Sanitary Bureau of the city of Berlin, with its problem of the disposal of sewage, neither of the two little streams near it being capable of receiving and transporting the refuse. Under his direction immense sewage farms were established after such a plan that they have kept pace in adequateness with the tremendous growth of the city, while the revenue from them is sufficient to meet and defray the expense of their maintenance.

Virchow was also distinguished as an archæologist. His advice and learning were of great advantage to Schliemann in the latter's researches in Hissarlik, and in the plains of ancient Troy. Archæological anthropology gained much from his description of the bones found in the graves at Koban.

On October 13, 1901, upon the celebration of his eightieth anniversary, at a complimentary dinner in Berlin, a Festschrift was presented to him by a score of former students. Simultaneously testimonial dinners were given in other cities, notably New York and Chicago, in the United States, at which many physicians vied with each other in recounting the discoveries and sounding their praises of the great scientist, teacher, physician, and legislator.

Perhaps Virchow's greatest material monument is the Pathological Institute and Museum in Berlin, erected by the Government in accordance with his desires. It contained 23,000 specimens at the time of his death, and by far surpasses all similar collections in the world.

He was a very voluminous writer. Among his works are Mittheilungen über die Typhus-Epidemie (Berlin, 1848); Die Cellularpathologie (ib., 1858; trans., London, 1860); Handbuch der speciellen Pathologie und Therapie (ib., 1854-62); Vorlesungen über Pathologie (ib., 1862-72); Die krankhaften Geschwülste (ib., 1863-67). He also published many works on various topics, such as the gorilla, plague in its relations to public health, Goethe, Johannes Müller, spedalska (a disease peculiar to the Norwegian coasts), etc. Consult his Life by Beecher (Berlin, 1891).