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Robert Koch

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Collection: 1843 Births, 1910 Deaths, Deaths from Myocardial Infarction, Foreign Members of the Royal Society, German Bacteriologists, German Biologists, German Inventors, German Microbiologists, German Military Personnel of the Franco-Prussian War, German Nobel Laureates, German Physicians, Grand Crosses of the Order of the Red Eagle, Humboldt University of Berlin Faculty, Members of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine, People from Goslar (District), People from the Kingdom of Hanover, Phthisiatrists, Prussian Army Personnel, Recipients of the Pour Le Mérite (Civil Class), Robert Koch, Robert Koch Institute People, Tuberculosis, University of Göttingen Alumni
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Robert Koch

Robert Koch
Born Robert Heinrich Herman Koch
(1843-12-11)11 December 1843
Clausthal, Kingdom of Hanover
Died 27 May 1910(1910-05-27) (aged 66)
Baden-Baden, Grand Duchy of Baden
Nationality German
Fields Microbiology
Institutions Imperial Health Office, Berlin, University of Berlin
Alma mater University of Göttingen
Doctoral advisor [1]
Other academic advisors Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle
Karl Ewald Hasse
Rudolf Virchow
Known for Discovery bacteriology
Koch's postulates of germ theory
Isolation of anthrax, tuberculosis and cholera
Influenced Friedrich Loeffler
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Medicine (1905)

Robert Heinrich Herman Koch (;[2] German: ; 11 December 1843 – 27 May 1910) was a celebrated [4] As a result of his groundbreaking research on tuberculosis, Koch received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1905.[4]


  • Personal life 1
  • Research contributions 2
    • Anthrax 2.1
    • Koch's four postulates 2.2
    • Isolating pure culture on solid media 2.3
    • Cholera 2.4
    • Tuberculosis 2.5
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6

Personal life

Robert Koch was born in Clausthal, Hanover, Germany, on 11 December 1843, to Hermann Koch and Mathilde Julie Henriette Biewand.[5] Koch excelled in academics from an early age. Before entering school in 1848, he had taught himself how to read and write.[3] He graduated from high school in 1862, having excelled in science and maths.[3] At the age of 19, Koch entered the University of Göttingen, studying natural science.[6] However, after two semesters, Koch decided to change his area of study to medicine, as he aspired to be a physician.[3] During his fifth semester of medical school, Jacob Henle, an anatomist who had published a theory of contagion in 1840, asked him to participate in his research project on uterine nerve structure.[3] In his sixth semester, Koch began to conduct research at the Physiological Institute, where he studied succinic acid secretion.[3] This would eventually form the basis of his dissertation.[4] In January 1866, Koch graduated from medical school, earning honors of the highest distinction.[3] In July 1867, following his graduation from medical school, Koch married Emma Adolfine Josephine Fraatz, and the two had a daughter, Gertrude, in 1868.[4] After his graduation in 1866, he worked as a surgeon in the Franco-Prussian War, and following his service, worked as a physician in Wollstein (now Wolsztyn, Poland).[6] Koch’s marriage with Emma Fraatz ended in 1893, and later that same year, he married actress Hedwig Freiberg.[4] From 1885 to 1890, he served as an administrator and professor at Berlin University.[3] Koch suffered a heart attack on 9 April 1910, and never made a complete recovery.[3] On 27 May, only three days after giving a lecture on his tuberculosis research at the Berlin Academy of Sciences, Robert Koch died in Baden-Baden at the age of 66.[6] Following his death, the Institute named its establishment after him in his honor.[3]

Research contributions


Robert Koch is widely known for his work with spontaneous generation and supporting the germ theory of disease.[7]

Koch's four postulates

Koch accepted a position as government advisor with the Imperial Department of Health in 1880.[8] During his time as government advisor, he published a report in which he stated the importance of pure cultures in isolating disease-causing organisms and explained the necessary steps to obtain these cultures, methods which are summarized in

  • ID Tree: Robert Koch Details
  • Robert Koch Biography at the Nobel Foundation website
  • MPIWG-Berlin, Robert Koch Biography and bibliography in the Virtual Laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
  • Biography on the Science Museum web site
  •, original microscope out of the laboratory Robert Koch used in Wollstein (1877)
  •, microscope objectives: as they were used by Robert Koch for his first photos of microorganisms (1877–1878)
  • Texts on Wikisource:
    • "Koch, Robert".  
    • "Koch, Robert".  
    • "Koch, Robert".  

External links

  • Morris, Robert D (2007). The blue death: disease, disaster and the water we drink. New York:  
  • Gradmann, Christoph (2009). Laboratory Disease: Robert Koch's Medical Bacteriology. Baltimore:  
  • Weindling, Paul. "Scientific elites and laboratory organization in fin de siècle Paris and Berlin: The Pasteur Institute and Robert Koch’s Institute for Infectious Diseases compared," in Andrew Cunningham and Perry Williams, eds. The Laboratory Revolution in Medicine (Cambridge University Press, 1992) pp: 170–88.

Further reading

  1. ^ ID Tree profile Robert Koch
  2. ^ "Koch". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s "Robert Koch." World of Microbiology and Immunology. Ed. Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Biography In Context. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Brock, Thomas. Robert Koch: A life in medicine and bacteriology. ASM Press: Washington DC, 1999. Print.
  5. ^ Metchnikoff, Elie. The Founders of Modern Medicine: Pasteur, Koch, Lister. Classics of Medicine Library: Delanco, 2006. Print.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch." World of Scientific Discovery. Gale, 2006. Biography In Context. Web. 14 April 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d "Germ theory of disease." World of Microbiology and Immunology. Ed. Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Biography In Context. Web. 14 April 2013.
  8. ^ O’Connor, T.M. "Tuberculosis, Overview." International Encyclopedia of Public Health. 2008. Web.
  9. ^ Amsterdamska, Olga. "Bacteriology, Historical." International Encyclopedia of Public Health. 2008. Web.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Madigan, Michael T., et al. Brock Biology of Microorganisms: Thirteenth edition. Benjamin Cummings: Boston, 2012. Print.
  11. ^ Robert Koch (10 April 1882) "Die Aetiologie der Tuberculose" (The etiology of tuberculosis), Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift (Berlin Clinical Weekly), 19 : 221-230. From page 225: "Die Tuberkelbacillen lassen sich auch noch auf anderen Nährsubstraten kultivieren, wenn letztere ähnliche Eigenschaften wie das erstarrte Blutserum besitzen. So wachsen sie beispielsweise auf einer mit Agar-Agar bereiteten, bei Blutwärme hart bleibenden Gallerte, welche einen Zusatz von Fleischinfus und Pepton erhalten hat." (The tubercule bacilli can also be cultivated on other media, if the latter have properties similar to those of congealed blood serum. Thus they grow, for example, on a gelatinous mass prepared with agar-agar, which remains solid at blood temperature, and which has received a supplement of meat broth and peptone.)
  12. ^ See:
    • Fillipo Pacini (1854) "Osservazioni microscopiche e deduzioni patologiche sul cholera asiatico" (Microscopic observations and pathological deductions on Asiatic cholera), Gazzetta Medica Italiana: Toscana, 2nd series, 4 (50) : 397-401 ; 4 (51) : 405-412.
    • Reprinted (more legibly) as a pamphlet.


See also

During his time as the government advisor with the Imperial Department of Health in Berlin in the 1880s, Robert Koch became interested in [10] His work with this disease won Koch the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1905.[3] Additionally, Koch's research on tuberculosis, along with his studies on tropical diseases, won him the Prussian Order Pour le Merite in 1906 and the Robert Koch medal, established to honor the greatest living physicians, in 1908.[3]


Koch next turned his attention to cholera, and began to conduct research in Egypt in the hopes of isolating the causative agent of the disease.[6] However, he was not able to complete the task before the epidemic in Egypt ended, and subsequently traveled to India to continue with the study.[3] In India, Koch was indeed able to determine the causative agent of cholera, isolating Vibrio cholera.[3] The bacterium had originally been isolated in 1854 by Italian anatomist Filippo Pacini,[12] but its exact nature and his results were not widely known.


Koch began conducting research on microorganisms in a laboratory connected to his patient examination room.[6] Koch’s early research in this laboratory proved to yield one of his major contributions to the field of microbiology, as it was there that he developed the technique of growing bacteria. Koch's second postulate calls for the isolation and growth of a selected pathogen in [10][11]

Isolating pure culture on solid media


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