According to a profile published on American Academy of Arts & Sciences journal, Dr Robert Koch was at first intended to be a tradesman, but later was allowed to carry out his own desire, which was to study medicine.
In April, 1862, at the age of eighteen, he entered the University of Gottingen, and devoted himself to the study of mathematics, physics and botany. The physiologist, Meissner, and the pathologist, Henle had a special influence upon him during his stay here.
In 1876, at the age of 33, Dr Robert Koch was engaged in private practice in Bomst in Wollstein, a little town of 4,000 inhabitants, and also held the post of Kreisphysikus, a position roughly equivalent to that of part-time medical officer. It was a position more unfavourable to do research activities, but Dr Koch worked in such time as he could spare from his other duties, with very limited equipment, without any assistance, in isolation from other investigators, and with no library facilities. It was under these conditions that he succeeded in working out the life-history of the anthrax bacillus.
According to The British Medical Journal, Dr Robert Koch's scientific reputation was established by this discovery, but he continued to combine general practice and bacteriological research until 1880, when he was called to the Kaiserlich Gesundheitsamt in Berlin.
In Berlin, he had adequate time and equipment for research, and was amidst a circle of other brilliant investigators, including Friedrich Loeffler and Georg Theodor August Gaffky. In these favourable surroundings, Dr. Koch became one of the leaders in the rapid advance of the new science of bacteriology. In 1882, BMJ says, he discovered the tubercle bacillus, possibly the chief single discovery of his career.
Dr Robert Koch himself always regarded his investigations on tuberculosis as the most important portion of his life's work. In 1883, Robert Koch was sent to Egypt and India to investigate cholera, and succeeded in demonstrating that the comma bacillus was the causal agent. In 1890 he created a great sensation by declaring that he had discovered substances which would arrest the growth of the tubercle bacillus, not only in the test tubes, but also in the living body.
"From boyhood he had had a keen desire to travel, and during the last fifteen years of his life he was able to gratify this passion to the full, for nearly half his time was spent in the tropical centres of disease. He visited practically every tropical country in Africa and Asia, investigating diseases both of animals and men. In International Tuberculosis Congress in London in 1901, he caused a great deal of surprise by announcing that human and bovine tuberculosis were separate forms, and that bovine tuberculosis was practically harmless to man," says BMJ.
"Robert Koch didn't believe there was a connection between TB in humans and animals, but he was not entirely correct," says nobelprize.org.
In 1904 Koch retired from the post of director of the Institute for Infectious Disease, a post he had held for thirteen years; he continued to work, however, and in 1906 went to East Africa to investigate sleeping sickness. He died in 1910 at the age of 67. The mere recital of Koch's chief discoveries indicates better than anything else the dominant part he played in the development of bacteriology.
"Koch's characteristics were those necessary for the successful investigator - patience, a strong will and great persistence. The earlier part of his career was marked by such definite and clear-cut results in all his published papers that the scientific world was ready to accept the claims attributed to him as to the effects to be expected from the use of tuberculin. His personality was modest and unassuming, his diction, in conversation, simple, clear and convincing," H. C. Ernst wrote in an American Academy of Arts & Sciences journal article.
Check out the @Google Doodle celebrating Robert Koch. A health pioneer, Koch made the breakthrough discovery of the cause of #tuberculosis in 1882 and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1905. pic.twitter.com/1eLK5xQXCp- The Global Fund (@GlobalFund) December 10, 2017
It is worth discussing Robert Koch's life and his contribution to medicine, especially when it comes to his role in producing research that proved diseases like anthrax, tuberculosis and cholera were caused by germs. It is for this reason that Google celebrates Dr Koch's Nobel Prize win for his ground-breaking research with a quirky Google Doodle.
(Source: The British Medical Journal, Vol. 2, No. 3320. Aug. 16, 1924)
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