Robert Remak Biography (1815-1865)

physician, physiologist

Robert Remak was born at Posen (Poznan), Poland on July 26, 1815; he died atKissingen, Bavaria on August 29, 1865. He was a pioneer in neuroanatomy and neuro-embryology. Remak studied at the University of Berlin under Johannes Múller. He graduated in 1838, having written a very important thesis. Hethen became an unpaid assistant to Múller, supporting himself by general practice. From 1843 to 1847, he served as assistant to Johann Lukas Schonlein (1793 to 1864; founder of the Natural History School which proposed to study medicine as descriptive botany and zoology are studied), who was then physician at the Charité clinic in Berlin. In 1847, he became Privatdocent (an unsalaried professor paid directly by students) in the University of Berlin, and in 1859 was promoted to Associate Professor.

In 1836 Remak obtained a compound microscope, and subsequently published twopapers on the nervous system based on work he did with it, even before he obtained his doctorate. His doctoral thesis (1838) dealt with his microscopicalinvestigations of nervous tissue. Remak also showed in his thesis that the axon of a peripheral nerve arises from a nerve cell in the spinal cord, and that it runs continuously from the nerve cell to the terminal branching of the nerve. Although he earned a reputation as a microscopist, Remak also made significant contributions to several other areas of medicine. As a histologist, he is remembered for his discovery of the non-medullated nerve fibers (now known as the fibers of Remak) in 1838, as well as for his discovery of the ganglionic cells in the sinus venous of the frog's heart (1848), now considered tobe the autonomous centers that cause the heart beat.

Remak was also the first to describe neurofibrils in nerve cells, the existence of six distinct layers of cells in the cerebral cortex, and the gangliatedplexuses of sympathetic nerves in the stomach wall. In 1851, Remak simplified the conception of von Baer's classifications of germ-layers in embryology,showing the significance of three layers in the development of the organs andtissues of the body. He studied the development of the neural tube, and described the earliest development of vessels in the vascular area of the chick embryo. While working in Schonlein's clinic, he produced in his own person favus (a contagious disease affecting the skin and the scalp) experimentally, separating the fungus, which he named Achorion Schonleini after his chief, from the genus Oidium (1845). In 1852, he became one of the first scientists to point out that the proliferation of cells to form tissue is accompaniedby cell division. (This was contrary to the opinions of Scheiden and Schwannwho believed that tissue formation is accompanied by the endogenous formation of new cells.) Remak also wrote about lead poisoning, paralysis of the musculo-spinal nerve, and other nervous conditions. Along with Addison and Duchene of Boulogne, he pioneered the field of electrotherapy, substituting galvanic for induced current (1856). Remak was also the first person to describe ascending neuritis (1861).

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