Scientists And Discoveries

Biography Robert Koch

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Robert Koch was one of the few people to earn a Nobel Prize in the field of Physiology or Medicine for his Tuberculosis findings in 1905. He was a great man who was incredibly dedicated to his research. Born on December 11th 1843 in Clausthal in Germany to mining official, he studied medicine at the university of Gottingen; his teacher there was Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle. After he graduated in 1866 he served in the franco-prussian war as many men did. Later becoming an officer in Wolsztyn in Poland. Working with very limited resources, he became one of the founders of bacteriology, along with him the other major figure being Louis Pasteur.

After the research of Casimir Davaine showed that the anthrax bacillus between cows showed direct transmission, Koch studied anthrax relations more closely. During his studies he invented methods to purify the bacillus. From various blood samples he could grow pure cultures. He found out that while it could not survive outside a host for long the anthrax built persisting endorspores that could last a great deal of time.

These endospores, once embedded in soil, were the cause of several unexplained spontaneous outbreaks of anthrax. Excited by this, Koch published his findings in 1876 and four years later was rewarded with a job at the imperial Health Office in Berlin, Germany (1880). A year later, he pushed for the sterilization of surgical equipment using heat.

While in Berlin, he began improving his methods, which included the staining and purification techniques and bacterial growth media; including agar plates and the petri dish, named after it`s inventor and his assistant Julius Richard Petri. With these devices and techniques, which are still used today, he was able to make the discovery of the bacterium causing the tuberculosis in 1882. He announced his discovery on the 24th march. The reason this was so big was that tuberculosis was the cause of one in seven deaths in the mid-19th century.

A year after his discovery in 1883, Koch worked in Alexandria, Egypt with a french research team studying cholera. Although he never managed to prove it using hard evidence, Koch identified the vibrio bacterium that actually caused cholera. Unknown to Koch, this bacterium had previously been isolated by Filippo Pacini 29 years earlier. But due to the predominance of the miasma theory of disease, Pacini`s work had been ignored. This made Koch`s Discovery independent and allowed it to be spread widely for the benefit of others.

Not to the knowledge of Koch as he died of a heart attack om may 27th 1910 (aged 66). In 1965 the bacterium was formally renamed as "Vibrio cholera Pacini 1854".

In his later life he became in professor of hygiene at the university of Berlin (1885) and then later the director of the newly formed institute of infectious diseases. This position he resigned from choosing instead to travel around the world studying disease ( in South Africa, India and Java).

Due to his research and discoveries his many of his students found the organisms responsible for diphtheria, typhoid, pneumonia, gonorrhea, cerebrospinal meningitis, leprosy, bubonic plague, tetanus, and syphilis, among others, by using his methods.

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