Prof. Rudolf Virchow - The father of modern pathology


Rudolf Virchow (13 October 1821 – 5 September 1902) at the Charité, Berlin, Germany

was a German physician, anthropologist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist, writer, editor, and politician, known for his advancement of public health. He is known as "the father of modern pathology" because his work helped to discredit principle of good and bad hazes, which was dominating the understanding of medicine in the early 19th century. By this he brought more science to medicine. He is also known as the founder of social medicine and veterinary pathology. To his colleagues he is the "Pope of medicine".


Virchow founded the medical fields of cellular pathology and comparative pathology (comparison of diseases common to humans and animals). His most important work in the field was Cellular Pathology (Die Cellularpathologie in ihrer Begründung auf physiologische und pathologische Gewebelehre) published in 1858, as a collection of his lectures. This is regarded as the basis of modern medical science, and the "greatest advance which scientific medicine had made since its beginning." His very innovative work may be viewed as between that of Morgagni, whose work Virchow studied, and that of Paul Ehrlich, who studied at the Charité while Virchow was developing microscopic pathology there. One of Virchow's major contributions to German medical education was to encourage the use of microscopes by medical students, and he was known for constantly urging his students to "think microscopically". He was the first to establish to link between infectious diseases between humans and animals, for which he coined the term "zoonoses". He also introduced scientific terms such as "chromatin", "agenesis", "parenchyma", "osteoid", "amyloid degeneration", and "spina bifida". His concept on pathology directly opposed humourism, an ancient medical dogma that diseases were due to imbalanced body fluids, hypothetically called humours, that still pervaded.


The scientifically orientated human pathology started around 185310 at the Charité in Berlin, Germany. Virchow was the first to develop a systematic method of autopsy, based on his knowledge of cellular pathology. The modern autopsy still constitute his techniques. His first most significant autopsy was on a 50-year-old woman in 1845. He found from the body an unusual number of white blood cells, and gave a detailed description in 1847 and named the condition as leukämie. One on his autopsies in 1857 was the first description of vertebral disc rupture. His autopsy on a baby in 1856 was the first description of congenital pulmonary lymphangiectasia (the name given by K. M. Laurence a century later), a rare and fatal disease of lung. From his experience of post-mortem examinations of a number of cadaver, he published his method in a small book in 1876. His book was the first to describe the techniques of autopsy specifically to examine abnormalities in organs, and retain important tissues for further examination and demonstration. Unlike any other operator before, he practiced complete surgery of all body parts with body organs dissected one by one. This has become the standard method.



Virchow's Successors

After the death of Virchow in 1902  Johannes Orth (1847-1923) was his first successor followed by Otto Lubarsch (1860-1933),  Robert Rössle (1876-1953), Hans Anders (1886-1953) and Louis-Heinz Kettler (1910-1976). In 1977 Heinz Simon (1922-1993) was appointed as director stimulating already at that time automated image analysis, which was continued by  Heinz David (geb. 1931). Hubert Martin (geb. 1937) and 1992 Hans Guski (geb. 1940) have been serving his intermediate directors until in 1994 up-to September 2016  Manfred Dietel (geb. 1948) was appointed as director of the Institute.