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Great Scientists

Rudolf Virchow

1821 - 1902

Rudolf Virchow

Rudolf Virchow was a German physician, pathologist and prehistorian, as well as a social and political writer and reformer.

  • Nationality
  • German

  • Subject
  • Biology

  • Fields
  • Pathology, medicine, anthropology, prehistory

  • Distinctions
  • Known as 'The Father of Pathology'

    Copley Medal, 1892

  • Posts
  • Various academic posts, including first Chair of Pathological Anatomy and Physiology for the Charité Institute for Pathology, post 1854.

  • Publications
  • Over 2,000 scientific papers and works

    Die medicinische Reform, newspaper during the period around the 1848 Revolution, in which he expounds his social and political ideas.

    Cellular Pathology, 1858, which established modern pathology.

    Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und für klinische Medizin, now Virchows Archiv

    Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, Journal of Ethnology, published by two societies founded by Virchow, the German Anthropological Association and the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory.

  • Laws
  • Omnis cellula e cellula : all cells come from cells, the third dictum of cell theory

  • Theories
  • Cell theory

    Cellular pathology, including the origin of cancer


    Virchow's triad

    Virchow opposed Darwin's theory of Evolution

    He thought Neanderthal was not a separate species of man

  • Experiments/Discoveries
  • Virchow's node, Virchow–Robin spaces, Virchow–Seckel syndrome, and Virchow's triad.

    Virchow described and named many diseases and conditions, including leukemia, embolism, thrombosis, and invented many scientific terms, such as chromatin, agenesis, amyloid degeneration and spina bifida.

In a long an illustrious career, Virchow revolutionised medicine, in particular our understanding of disease.

Medical students see his name frequently, as it is used in the names of many diseases and conditions, which Virchow discovered.

He is also known as the third of the trio (with Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann) who formulated the three doctrines of Cell Theory.

Virchow's genius did not always produce the right results: he opposed Darwin's theory of Evolution, and was quite vitriolic in criticising its proponents. He also thought Neanderthal was not a separate species of man.