Julius Friedrich Cohnheim Biography (1839-1884)


Julius Friedrich Cohnheim, a Prussin-born German pathologist, had solved a medical puzzle that vexed scientists for 13 centuries the origin of pus. Cohnheim discovered that pus is the green/yellow liquid that seeps into injured body tissues that is made up of white blood cells that migrate through the wallsof capillaries. Cohnheim wrote upon his discovery that "...The so-called puscells...are colorless blood corpuscles, which forced their way out of the blood vessels..." adding: "There is no inflammation without the participation of blood vessels."

Born in 1839 in Demmin in northern Prussia (present-day Poland), Cohnheim began his medical studies at the University of Berlin when he was 17. Because pursuing his education.

In Berlin, Cohnheim studied under Rudolf Virchow, who was considered the father of cellular pathology. Cohnheim's doctoral dissertation, written under Virchow's supervision, investigated inflammation in serous membranes. Hewas one of a number of Virchow's students who equaled or surpassed their master. Disproving Virchow's belief that pus originated in nearby connective tissues, Cohnheim found that the thick liquid, made up largely of debris from disintegrated white blood corpuscles, was much more than a local phenomenon. Rather, it was produced by a dynamic process that involved the whole body. "It seems to me that the enormous production of pus-corpuscles will be decidedly easier of comprehension if we be permitted to regard the whole organism as concerned in it, and not merely that portion in which the inflammation has beenestablished," he observed.

From 1868 to 1872, Cohnheim worked in Kiel as a pathology professor, after which he occupied a similar post in Breslau. There, Cohnheim was present when Robert Koch, presented his ground-breaking discovery of the anthrax germ. This development encouraged Cohnheim to continue his own search for the bacteria behind tuberculosis and cholera. When Koch eventually discovered the tuberculosis bacillus, he drew on some of Cohnheim's research on rabbiteyes.

Cohnheim's accomplishments included creating and managing a pathology institute at Breslau and writing a popular two-volume textbook, Lectures on General Pathology. During the German-Danish War in 1864, he served with the Prussian Army as a surgeon.

Cohnheim also made a variety of important initial contributions to the otherrelated areas of science. He was one of the first pathologists to observe inflammation through the microscope, studying injured blood vessels in transparent membranes from the tongues of frogs and the mesentery, a double-layered membrane connecting the small intestine, stomach, spleen, pancreas and other abdominal organs. Cohnheim made an important contribution to laboratory science, developing the still-in-use technique of freezing fresh body tissues and then slicing them into thin sections for examination under a microscope. His other investigations included studies of nerve endings, coronary arteries, thestructure of muscle fibre, cancer of the fibula (a bone in the lower leg), and fatal trichinosis (a disease caused by eating insufficiently cooked meat containing nematode worms). He also provided an early description of a paradoxical phenomenon in which the movement of a blood clot can be influenced by a large hole between the atrial chambers of the heart (atrial septal defect).

In 1878 he moved from Kiel to the University of Leipzig. During the final decade of his life there, Cohnheim suffered from gouty arthritis that resisted treatment and confined him to a chair or bed. He died from complications of the disease in 1884, at the age of 45. A pathologist to the end, he allowed a postmortem dissection of his body to reveal the nature of his gout.

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