Hippocrates to Harrison : Virchow


Classical Works
Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Internal Medicine
Infection and Immunity
Neurology and Psychiatry
Public Health
Tropical Medicine
Evolution and Genetics
Authors A to Z
Who was Harrison?


150th Anniversary logo

Virchow, Rudolph, 1821-1902
Post modern examinations
London : Churchill, 1880.

Image from Virchow Postmodern

This English translation of Virchow's manual describes his autopsy technique which is still used with little change more than a century later. Virchow is revered as the founder of cellular pathology, his influence extending far beyond his own discoveries and theories through his teaching of a generation of experimental and diagnostic pathologists in Berlin and the establishment, when he was only 26, of the Archiv fur Pathologishe Anatomie, better known as "Virchow's Archiv".

Virchow also played a very active role in Prussian politics. He was an opponent of Bismark. He founded a journal, Die Medicinishe Reform, promoting progressive initiatives including relief of famine in Silesia and provision of water and sewerage systems in Berlin. In 1849 these activities resulted in loss of his academic position in Berlin but his rising international eminence secured reinstatement seven years later. During the Franco-Prussian War he organised the Prussian Army Ambulance Corps. These activities did not distract him from pathology and when the Pathology Museum in Berlin was built in his honour he donated his collection of 23,066 specimens which he had personally prepared.

Many of Virchow's specific inferences about pathogenesis of disease have failed to stand the test of time, but his central thesis that the body is a "cell state in which every cell is a citizen" with disease as "merely a conflict of citizens of the state, brought about by the action of external forces" still retains much of its validity.