Robert Koch

Robert Koch

Infobox Scientist
name = Robert Koch

birth_date = birth date|1843|12|11|mf=y
birth_place = Clausthal, Kingdom of Hanover
death_date = death date and age|1910|5|27|1843|12|11|mf=y
death_place = Baden-Baden, Grand Duchy of Baden
field = Microbiology
work_institutions = Imperial Health Office, Berlin, University of Berlin
alma_mater = University of Göttingen
doctoral_advisor = Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle
known_for = Discovery bacteriology
Koch's postulates of germ theory
Isolation of anthrax, tuberculosis and cholera
prizes = Nobel Prize in Medicine (1905)

Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch (December 11 1843May 27 1910) was a German physician. He became famous for isolating "Bacillus anthracis" (1877), the tuberculosis bacillus (1882) and the vibrio cholera (1883) and for his development of Koch's postulates.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his tuberculosis findings in 1905. He is considered one of the founders of microbiology—he inspired such major figures as Paul Ehrlich and Gerhard Domagk.


Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch was born in Clausthal, Germany as the son of a mining official. He studied medicine under Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle at the University of Göttingen and graduated in 1866. He then served in the Franco-Prussian War and later became district medical officer in Wollstein (Wolsztyn), Prussian Poland. Working with very limited resources, he became one of the founders of bacteriology, the other major figure being Louis Pasteur.

After Casimir Davaine 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 endospores, 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 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) and the Petri dish, named after its inventor, his assistant Julius Richard Petri. These devices are still used today. With these techniques, he was able to discover the bacterium causing tuberculosis ("Mycobacterium tuberculosis") in 1882 (he announced the discovery on March 24). 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, Egypt, studying cholera. Koch identified the vibrio bacterium that caused cholera, though he never managed to prove it in experiments. The bacterium had been previously isolated by Italian anatomist Filippo Pacini in 1854, but his work had been ignored due to the predominance of the miasma theory of disease. 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 at the University of Berlin, 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), a position from which he resigned in 1904. He started traveling around the world, studying diseases in South Africa, India, and Java.

Probably as important as his work on tuberculosis, for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize (1905), are "Koch's postulates", which say that "to establish that an organism is the cause of a disease, it must be":

* found in all cases of the disease examined
* prepared and maintained in a pure culture
* capable of producing the original infection, even after several generations in culture
* retrievable from an inoculated animal and cultured again.

After Koch's success the quality of his own research declined (especially with the fiasco over his ineffective TB cure "tuberculin"), although his pupils found the organisms responsible for diphtheria, typhoid, pneumonia, gonorrhoea, cerebrospinal meningitis, leprosy, bubonic plague, tetanus, and syphilis, among others, by using his methods.

Koch died on May 27, 1910 from a heart-attack in Baden-Baden, aged 66.

Honors and awards

Koch crater on the Moon was named after him. The Robert Koch Prize 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 (south of St. Louis, Missouri), was also named in his honor. A hagiographic account of Koch's career can be found in the 1939 Nazi propaganda film "Robert Koch, der Bekämpfer des Todes", directed by Hans Steinhoff and starring Emil Jannings as Koch.

ee also

* History of medicine
* Timeline of medicine and medical technology



External links

* [ Robert Koch Biography at the Nobel Foundation website]
* [ Robert Koch Biography and bibliography] in the Virtual Laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

NAME= Koch, Robert
SHORT DESCRIPTION=German physician and bacteriologist
DATE OF BIRTH=birth date|1843|12|11
PLACE OF BIRTH=Clausthal, Germany
DATE OF DEATH=1910-05-27
PLACE OF DEATH=Baden-Baden, Germany

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Robert Koch — Kochs Unterschrift Robert Koch (* …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert Koch — Nacimiento 11 de diciembre de 1843 Clausthal, Reino de Hannover …   Wikipedia Español

  • Robert Koch — Koch, Robert Médico bacteriólogo alemán nacido en 1843. Fue el descubridor del agente responsable de la tuberculosis (conocido actualmente como bacilo de Koch o Mycobacterium tuberculosis), de la tuberculina y del vibrión del cólera. También… …   Diccionario médico

  • Robert Koch — er en tysk videnskabsmand. I 1882 offentliggør han, at han har fundet den bakterie, som er årsag til tuberkulose. I 1905 modtager han nobelprisen i medicin; Koch dør i 1910 …   Danske encyklopædi

  • Robert Koch — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Koch. Robert Koch …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Robert Koch — Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch (11 de diciembre de 1843 27 de mayo de 1910) fue un médico alemán. Se hizo famoso por descubrir el bacilo de la tuberculosis en (1882) así como también el bacilo del cólera en (1883) y por el desarrollo de los… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Robert Koch — n. Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch (1843 1910), German doctor and bacteriologist, discoverer of the bacteria associated with tuberculosis, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1905 …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Robert Koch — noun German bacteriologist who isolated the anthrax bacillus and the tubercle bacillus and the cholera bacillus (1843 1910) • Syn: ↑Koch • Instance Hypernyms: ↑bacteriologist …   Useful english dictionary

  • Robert Koch-Institut — Staatliche Ebene Bund Stellung der Behörde Bundesoberbehörde Rechtsform Bundesbetrieb Gründung …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert Koch (Begriffsklärung) — Robert Koch ist der Name folgender Personen: Robert Koch (1843–1910), deutscher Mediziner und Mikrobiologe Robert Koch (Fußballspieler) (* 1986), deutscher Fußballspieler Nach Robert Koch benannt: Robert Koch Award Robert Koch Gymnasium Robert… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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