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Robert Koch

Robert Koch

Overview
Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch (ˈkɔx; 11 December 1843 – 27 May 1910) was a German
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

. He became famous for isolating Bacillus anthracis
Bacillus anthracis
Bacillus anthracis is the pathogen of the Anthrax acute disease. It is a Gram-positive, spore-forming, rod-shaped bacterium, with a width of 1-1.2µm and a length of 3-5µm. It can be grown in an ordinary nutrient medium under aerobic or anaerobic conditions.It is one of few bacteria known to...

(1877), the Tuberculosis bacillus
Mycobacterium tuberculosis
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a pathogenic bacterial species in the genus Mycobacterium and the causative agent of most cases of tuberculosis . First discovered in 1882 by Robert Koch, M...

 (1882) and the Vibrio cholerae
Vibrio cholerae
Vibrio cholerae is a Gram-negative, comma-shaped bacterium. Some strains of V. cholerae cause the disease cholera. V. cholerae is facultatively anaerobic and has a flagella at one cell pole. V...

 (1883) and for his development of Koch's postulates
Koch's postulates
Koch's postulates are four criteria designed to establish a causal relationship between a causative microbe and a disease. The postulates were formulated by Robert Koch and Friedrich Loeffler in 1884 and refined and published by Koch in 1890...

.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will...

 for his tuberculosis findings in 1905. He is considered one of the founders of microbiology
Microbiology
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, which are defined as any microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters or no cell at all . This includes eukaryotes, such as fungi and protists, and prokaryotes...

, inspiring such major figures as Paul Ehrlich
Paul Ehrlich
Paul Ehrlich was a German scientist in the fields of hematology, immunology, and chemotherapy, and Nobel laureate. He is noted for curing syphilis and for his research in autoimmunity, calling it "horror autotoxicus"...

 and Gerhard Domagk
Gerhard Domagk
Gerhard Johannes Paul Domagk was a German pathologist and bacteriologist credited with the discovery of Sulfonamidochrysoidine – the first commercially available antibiotic – for which he received the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.Domagk was born in Lagow, Brandenburg, the...

.

Koch was born in Clausthal
Clausthal-Zellerfeld
Clausthal-Zellerfeld is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is located in the southwestern part of the Harz mountains. Its population is approximately 15,000, Clausthal-Zellerfeld is also the seat of the Samtgemeinde Oberharz....

, Prussia, one of the German states, as the son of a mining official.
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Encyclopedia
Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch (ˈkɔx; 11 December 1843 – 27 May 1910) was a German
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

. He became famous for isolating Bacillus anthracis
Bacillus anthracis
Bacillus anthracis is the pathogen of the Anthrax acute disease. It is a Gram-positive, spore-forming, rod-shaped bacterium, with a width of 1-1.2µm and a length of 3-5µm. It can be grown in an ordinary nutrient medium under aerobic or anaerobic conditions.It is one of few bacteria known to...

(1877), the Tuberculosis bacillus
Mycobacterium tuberculosis
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a pathogenic bacterial species in the genus Mycobacterium and the causative agent of most cases of tuberculosis . First discovered in 1882 by Robert Koch, M...

 (1882) and the Vibrio cholerae
Vibrio cholerae
Vibrio cholerae is a Gram-negative, comma-shaped bacterium. Some strains of V. cholerae cause the disease cholera. V. cholerae is facultatively anaerobic and has a flagella at one cell pole. V...

 (1883) and for his development of Koch's postulates
Koch's postulates
Koch's postulates are four criteria designed to establish a causal relationship between a causative microbe and a disease. The postulates were formulated by Robert Koch and Friedrich Loeffler in 1884 and refined and published by Koch in 1890...

.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine administered by the Nobel Foundation, is awarded once a year for outstanding discoveries in the field of life science and medicine. It is one of five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, in his will...

 for his tuberculosis findings in 1905. He is considered one of the founders of microbiology
Microbiology
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, which are defined as any microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters or no cell at all . This includes eukaryotes, such as fungi and protists, and prokaryotes...

, inspiring such major figures as Paul Ehrlich
Paul Ehrlich
Paul Ehrlich was a German scientist in the fields of hematology, immunology, and chemotherapy, and Nobel laureate. He is noted for curing syphilis and for his research in autoimmunity, calling it "horror autotoxicus"...

 and Gerhard Domagk
Gerhard Domagk
Gerhard Johannes Paul Domagk was a German pathologist and bacteriologist credited with the discovery of Sulfonamidochrysoidine – the first commercially available antibiotic – for which he received the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.Domagk was born in Lagow, Brandenburg, the...

.

Biography


Koch was born in Clausthal
Clausthal-Zellerfeld
Clausthal-Zellerfeld is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is located in the southwestern part of the Harz mountains. Its population is approximately 15,000, Clausthal-Zellerfeld is also the seat of the Samtgemeinde Oberharz....

, Prussia, one of the German states, as the son of a mining official. He studied medicine under Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle
Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle
Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle was a German physician, pathologist and anatomist. He is credited with the discovery of the loop of Henle in the kidney. His essay "On Miasma and Contagia" was an early argument for the germ theory of disease...

 at the University of Göttingen and graduated in 1866. He then served in the Franco-Prussian War
Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...

 and later became district medical officer, Wollstein (Wolsztyn)
Wolsztyn
Wolsztyn is a town in western Poland, on the western edge of Greater Poland Voivodeship...

, Prussian Poland. Working with very limited resources, he became one of the founders of bacteriology
Bacteriology
Bacteriology is the study of bacteria. This subdivision of microbiology involves the identification, classification, and characterization of bacterial species...

, the other major figure being Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur
Louis Pasteur was a French chemist and microbiologist born in Dole. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of diseases. His discoveries reduced mortality from puerperal fever, and he created the first vaccine for rabies and anthrax. His experiments...

.

After Casimir Davaine
Casimir Davaine
Casimir Davaine was a French physician known for his work in the field of microbiology. He was a native of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, department of Nord....

 showed the direct transmission of the anthrax bacillus between cows, Koch studied anthrax more closely. He invented methods to purify the bacillus from blood samples and grow pure cultures. He found that, while it could not survive outside a host for long, anthrax built persisting endospores that could last a long time.

These endospore
Endospore
An endospore is a dormant, tough, and temporarily non-reproductive structure produced by certain bacteria from the Firmicute phylum. The name "endospore" is suggestive of a spore or seed-like form , but it is not a true spore . It is a stripped-down, dormant form to which the bacterium can reduce...

s, embedded in soil, were the cause of unexplained "spontaneous" outbreaks of anthrax. Koch published his findings in 1876, and was rewarded with a job at the Imperial Health Office in Berlin in 1880. In 1881, he urged the sterilization
Sterilization (microbiology)
Sterilization is a term referring to any process that eliminates or kills all forms of microbial life, including transmissible agents present on a surface, contained in a fluid, in medication, or in a compound such as biological culture media...

 of surgical instruments using heat.

In Berlin, he improved the methods he used in Wollstein, including staining and purification techniques, and bacterial growth media, including agar plates (thanks to the advice of Angelina and Walther Hesse
Walter Hesse
Walther Hesse is best known for his work in microbiology, specifically his work in developing Agar as a medium for culturing microorganisms.-Biography:...

) and the Petri dish
Petri dish
A Petri dish is a shallow glass or plastic cylindrical lidded dish that biologists use to culture cells or small moss plants. It was named after German bacteriologist Julius Richard Petri, who invented it when working as an assistant to Robert Koch...

, named after its inventor, his assistant Julius Richard Petri
Julius Richard Petri
Julius Richard Petri was a German bacteriologist who is generally credited with inventing the Petri dish while working as assistant to Robert Koch....

. These devices are still used today. With these techniques, he was able to discover the bacterium causing tuberculosis
Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 (Mycobacterium tuberculosis
Mycobacterium tuberculosis
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is a pathogenic bacterial species in the genus Mycobacterium and the causative agent of most cases of tuberculosis . First discovered in 1882 by Robert Koch, M...

) in 1882 (he announced the discovery on 24 March). Tuberculosis was the cause of one in seven deaths in the mid-19th century.

In 1883, Koch worked with a French research team in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, studying cholera
Cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

. Koch identified the vibrio
Vibrio
Vibrio is a genus of Gram-negative bacteria possessing a curved rod shape, several species of which can cause foodborne infection, usually associated with eating undercooked seafood. Typically found in saltwater, Vibrio are facultative anaerobes that test positive for oxidase and do not form...

 bacterium that caused cholera, though he never managed to prove it in experiments. The bacterium had been previously isolated by Italian anatomist Filippo Pacini
Filippo Pacini
Filippo Pacini was an Italian anatomist, posthumously famous for isolating the cholera bacillus Vibrio cholerae in 1854, well before Robert Koch's more widely accepted discoveries thirty years later....

 in 1854, but his work had been ignored due to the predominance of the miasma theory of disease
Miasma theory of disease
The miasma theory held that diseases such as cholera, chlamydia or the Black Death were caused by a miasma , a noxious form of "bad air"....

. Koch was unaware of Pacini's work and made an independent discovery, and his greater preeminence allowed the discovery to be widely spread for the benefit of others. In 1965, however, the bacterium was formally renamed Vibrio cholera Pacini 1854.

In 1885, he became professor of hygiene
Hygiene
Hygiene refers to the set of practices perceived by a community to be associated with the preservation of health and healthy living. While in modern medical sciences there is a set of standards of hygiene recommended for different situations, what is considered hygienic or not can vary between...

 at the University of Berlin
Charité
The Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin is the medical school for both the Humboldt University and the Free University of Berlin. After the merger with their fourth campus in 2003, the Charité is one of the largest university hospitals in Europe....

, then in 1891 he was made Honorary Professor of the medical faculty and Director of the new Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases (eventually renamed as the Robert Koch Institute
Robert Koch Institute
The Robert Koch Institute is the German federal institution responsible for disease control and prevention. It is located in Berlin and Wernigerode and is part of the Federal Ministry of Health.-History:...

), a position from which he resigned in 1904. He started travelling around the world, studying diseases in South Africa, India, and Java. He visited what is now called the Indian Veterinary Research Institute
Indian Veterinary Research Institute
For the singular of Ivrit , see Jewish.Indian Veterinary Research Institute or IVRI is located at Izzatnagar, Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh state. It is India's premier advanced research facility in the field of veterinary medicine and allied branches. It has campuses at Mukteshwar, Bangalore,...

 (IVRI), Mukteshwar
Mukteshwar
Mukteshwar is a town and tourist destination in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand, India. It sits high in the Kumaon Hills at an altitude of 2286 meters , 51 km from Nainital, 72 km from Haldwani, and 395 km from Delhi....

 on request from the Government of India to investigate cattle plague. The microscope used by him during that period was kept in the museum maintained by IVRI.

Probably as important as his work on tuberculosis, for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize (1905), are Koch's postulates
Koch's postulates
Koch's postulates are four criteria designed to establish a causal relationship between a causative microbe and a disease. The postulates were formulated by Robert Koch and Friedrich Loeffler in 1884 and refined and published by Koch in 1890...

, which say that to establish that an organism is the cause of a disease
Disease
A disease is an abnormal condition affecting the body of an organism. It is often construed to be a medical condition associated with specific symptoms and signs. It may be caused by external factors, such as infectious disease, or it may be caused by internal dysfunctions, such as autoimmune...

, it must be
:
  • found in all cases of the disease examined, while absent in healthy organisms
  • prepared and maintained in a pure culture
    Microbiological culture
    A microbiological culture, or microbial culture, is a method of multiplying microbial organisms by letting them reproduce in predetermined culture media under controlled laboratory conditions. Microbial cultures are used to determine the type of organism, its abundance in the sample being tested,...

  • capable of producing the original infection
    Infection
    An infection is the colonization of a host organism by parasite species. Infecting parasites seek to use the host's resources to reproduce, often resulting in disease...

    , even after several generations in culture
  • retrievable from an inoculated animal
    Animal
    Animals are a major group of multicellular, eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Animalia or Metazoa. Their body plan eventually becomes fixed as they develop, although some undergo a process of metamorphosis later on in their life. Most animals are motile, meaning they can move spontaneously and...

     and cultured again.


Koch's pupils found the organisms responsible for diphtheria
Diphtheria
Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, a facultative anaerobic, Gram-positive bacterium. It is characterized by sore throat, low fever, and an adherent membrane on the tonsils, pharynx, and/or nasal cavity...

, typhoid, pneumonia
Pneumonia
Pneumonia is an inflammatory condition of the lung—especially affecting the microscopic air sacs —associated with fever, chest symptoms, and a lack of air space on a chest X-ray. Pneumonia is typically caused by an infection but there are a number of other causes...

, gonorrhoea, cerebrospinal meningitis
Meningitis
Meningitis is inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms, and less commonly by certain drugs...

, leprosy
Leprosy
Leprosy or Hansen's disease is a chronic disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Named after physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen, leprosy is primarily a granulomatous disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of the upper respiratory tract; skin lesions...

, bubonic plague
Bubonic plague
Plague is a deadly infectious disease that is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis, named after the French-Swiss bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin. Primarily carried by rodents and spread to humans via fleas, the disease is notorious throughout history, due to the unrivaled scale of death...

, tetanus
Tetanus
Tetanus is a medical condition characterized by a prolonged contraction of skeletal muscle fibers. The primary symptoms are caused by tetanospasmin, a neurotoxin produced by the Gram-positive, rod-shaped, obligate anaerobic bacterium Clostridium tetani...

, and syphilis
Syphilis
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The primary route of transmission is through sexual contact; however, it may also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital syphilis...

, among others, by using his methods.

Robert Koch died on 27 May 1910 from a heart-attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

in Baden-Baden
Baden-Baden
Baden-Baden is a spa town in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is located on the western foothills of the Black Forest, on the banks of the Oos River, in the region of Karlsruhe...

, aged 66.

Honors and awards


The crater Koch
Koch (crater)
Koch is a crater on the far side of the Moon. It lies in the southern hemisphere, to the south-southeast of the walled plain Jules Verne. Attached to the northeastern rim of Koch by a neck of uneven terrain is the crater Lundmark. Less than one crater diameter to the south of Koch is Crocco.This...

 on the Moon
Moon
The Moon is Earth's only known natural satellite,There are a number of near-Earth asteroids including 3753 Cruithne that are co-orbital with Earth: their orbits bring them close to Earth for periods of time but then alter in the long term . These are quasi-satellites and not true moons. For more...

 is named after him. The Robert Koch Prize
Robert Koch Prize
The Robert Koch Medal and Award are two prizes awarded annually for excellence in the biomedical sciences. These awards grew out of early attempts by Robert Koch to generate funding to support his research into the cause and cure for tuberculosis...

 and Medal were created to honour Microbiologists who make groundbreaking discoveries or who contribute to global health in a unique way. The now-defunct Robert Koch Hospital at Koch, Missouri
Koch, Missouri
Koch is a former community in St. Louis County, Missouri. It was named for Robert Koch, a German bacteriologist. The location was at what is now Interstate 255 east of Route 231. It had a post office, which is now closed....

 (south of St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

), was also named in his honor. A hagiographic
Hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 account of Koch's career can be found in the 1939 Nazi propaganda film Robert Koch, der Bekämpfer des Todes (The fighter against death), directed by Hans Steinhoff
Hans Steinhoff
Hans Steinhoff was a German film director, best known for the films he made in the Nazi era. His most notable film was Ohm Krüger, for which he won the Mussolini Cup at the 1941 Venice Film Festival.-Filmography:*Hitlerjunge Quex...

 and starring Emil Jannings
Emil Jannings
Emil Jannings was a German actor. He was not only the first actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor, but also the first person to be presented an Oscar...

 as Koch.
Because the construction efforts on Veliki Brijun Island
Veliki Brijun
Veliki Brijun is an uninhabited island in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea. It is located off the west coast of Istria in northern Adriatic and is the largest island in the Brijuni Islands archipelago...

 were jeopardized by malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 outbreaks which occurred during summer months, and even Austrian steel industrialist Paul Kupelweiser himself fell ill with the disease, at the turn of the century Kupelweiser invited in Koch, who at the time studied different forms of malaria and quinine
Quinine
Quinine is a natural white crystalline alkaloid having antipyretic , antimalarial, analgesic , anti-inflammatory properties and a bitter taste. It is a stereoisomer of quinidine which, unlike quinine, is an anti-arrhythmic...

-based treatments. Koch accepted the invitation and spent two years, from 1900 to 1902, on the Brijuni Islands Archipelago
Brijuni
The Brijuni or the Brijuni Islands are a group of fourteen small islands in the Croatian part of the northern Adriatic Sea, separated from the west coast of the Istrian peninsula by the narrow Fažana Strait...

.

According to Koch’s instructions, all the ponds and swamps where malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

-carrying mosquitoes hatched were reclaimed and patients were treated with quinine
Quinine
Quinine is a natural white crystalline alkaloid having antipyretic , antimalarial, analgesic , anti-inflammatory properties and a bitter taste. It is a stereoisomer of quinidine which, unlike quinine, is an anti-arrhythmic...

. Malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 was thus eradicated by 1902 and Kupelwieser erected a monument to Koch, which still stands in vicinity of the 15th century Church of St. German on Veliki Brijun Island
Veliki Brijun
Veliki Brijun is an uninhabited island in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea. It is located off the west coast of Istria in northern Adriatic and is the largest island in the Brijuni Islands archipelago...

.



External links

  • Robert Koch Biography at the Nobel Foundation website
  • MPIWG-Berlin, Robert Koch Biography and bibliography in the Virtual Laboratory
    Virtual Laboratory
    The online project Virtual Laboratory. Essays and Resources on the Experimentalization of Life, 1830-1930, located at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, is dedicated to research in the history of the experimentalization of life...

     of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
    Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
    The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin was established in March 1994. Its research is primarily devoted to a theoretically oriented history of science, principally of the natural sciences, but with methodological perspectives drawn from the cognitive sciences and from...

  • Musoptin.com, original microscope out of the laboratory Robert Koch used in Wollstein (1877)
  • Musoptin.com, microscope objectives: as they were used by Robert Koch for his first photos of microorganisms (1877–1878)

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