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    Scholar of the Month - Albert von Koelliker

    * 06.07.1817 in Zürich, Switzerland † 02.11.1905 in Würzburg

    1836      Study of philosophy and medicine at University of Zürich, Bonn, Berlin, Heidelberg
    1841      Attainment of doctorate at Zürich University
    1842      Attainment of doctorate at Heidelberg University
    1842      Assistantship and demonstratorship in Zürich working for Jakob Henle
    1843      Habilitation at Zürich University
    1844      Extraordinary Professor at Zürich University
    1847      Ordinary at Würzburg University
    1849      Founding member of the “Physico-Medical society“ (Societas Physico-Medica)
    1849      Publisher of „Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Zoologie“ together with Karl Theodor Ernst von Siebold
    1897      Retirement
    1902      Quitting the management of the Institute for Comparative Anatomy, Embryology and Histology

    200 Years of Koelliker

    As a scientific pioneer, especially in comparative anatomy research at Würzburg University, Swiss Koelliker together with contemporaries such as Rudolf Virchow paved the way for the internationally renowned status of the Würzburg Faculty of Medicine. Additionally, other scientific scholars like Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen benefited decisively from the commitment of Koelliker, who always worked in the name of research at Würzburg until the age of 85, even beyond his retirement.

    On the occasion of the two hundred anniversary of Albert Koelliker’s birth, this important anatomy and physiologist is more than eligible to become Würzburg Scholar of the Month in July 2017.

    Originator of Microscopic Anatomy

    Koelliker is considered as originator of microscopic anatomy, since he provided substantial contributions in this field for the investigation of human cells and cellular structure. Especially his introduction of the term cytoplasm reached sustainability. The relevance of his contributions to anatomy becomes particularly visible by means of his performed shift from macroscopy to microscopy. His pioneering research in systematic histology was equally important. In this process, histological research on the structure of muscle cells and on the condition of adipose tissue became ground-breaking standards of this discipline. Out of this knowledge, the first handbook of histology ever was written by Koelliker.

    Known in Würzburg and around the World

    During his whole time in Würzburg he enjoyed a high reputation with other scientists, scholars as well as students. Many of his colleagues supported him actively with his research, among them were Hans Virchow or Johannes Sobotta. He maintained close contact with Karl Theodor Ernst von Siebold who was co-editor of the journal “Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Zoologie“. The friendship with Rudolf Virchow and the foundation of the “Physico-Medical Society“ influenced the scientific character of Würzburg significantly, because Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen initially presented his X-rays in front of this society just a few years later. Afterwards Albert Koelliker suggested the designation of these X-rays as “Röntgenstrahlen“ (Roentgen rays). The scientific activity of Koelliker in the fields of research and teaching brought him an international reputation plus several awards and honours. Through his achievements the Medical Faculty of Würzburg University reached exceptional importance all over the German Empire. Koelliker’s oeuvre got appreciated by a nobilitation by the prince regent of the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1897.

    Radiograph of Albert Koelliker's hand.
    Radiograph of Albert Koelliker's hand at the initial presentation of Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen's X-rays (Roentgen rays) 1896.
    © Universität Würzburg
    Bust of Albert von Koelliker
    This bust of Koelliker was mounted in honour of him at the institute of atonomy in 1891.
    © Universität Würzburg
    Depiction of the old anatomy building
    Contemporary depiction of the "old" building of the institute of anotomy in which Albert Koelliker was working from 1853 until 1883. The building was located on the northern side of the Julius Hospital garden which later became a medical "Kollegienhaus".
    © Universität Würzburg
    Depiction of the new anatomy building
    Contemporary depiction of the "new" institute of anatomy in 1883. In its planning process Albert Koelliker was substantially involved. The building is still in use today. It is located at Koellikerstraße 6.
    © Universität Würzburg

    Recommended reading:

    Otremba, Heinz: Albert von Koelliker. Anatom und Histologe (1817-1905), Würzburg 1986.
    Hildebrand, Reinhard: Rudolf Albert Koelliker und seine wissenschaftlichen Kontakte zum Ausland, in: Würzburger medizinhistorische Mitteilungen, Bd. 2 (1984), S. 101-115.
    Hildebrand, Reinhard: Rudolf Albert von Koelliker und sein Kreis, in: Würzburger medizinhistorische Mitteilungen, Bd. 3 (1985), S. 127-151.


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