Robert Koch

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Koch, Robert

(rō`bĕrt kôkh), 1843–1910, German bacteriologist. He studied at Göttingen under Jacob HenleHenle, Jacob
(Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle) , 1809–85, German anatomist and histologist. A pupil of J. P. Müller, he taught at Zürich, Heidelberg, and Göttingen.
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. As a country practitioner in Wollstein, Posen (now Wolsztyn, Poland), he devoted much time to microscopic studies of bacteria, for which he devised not only a method of staining with aniline dyes but also techniques of bacteriological culture still in general use. He established the bacterial cause of many infectious diseases and discovered the microorganisms causing anthrax (1876), wound infections (1878), tuberculosis (1882), conjunctivitis (1883), cholera (1884), and other diseases. He was professor at the Univ. of Berlin from 1885 to 1891 and head of the Institute for Infectious Diseases (founded for him) from 1891 to 1904. In the course of his bacteriological investigations for the British and German governments he traveled to South Africa, India, Egypt, and other countries and made valuable studies of sleeping sickness, malaria, bubonic plague, rinderpest, and other diseases. For his work in developing tuberculin as a test for tuberculosis he received the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

Koch, Robert


Born Dec. 11, 1843, in Klausthal, died May 27, 1910, in Baden-Baden. German microbiologist; one of the founders of modern bacteriology and epidemiology.

Koch graduated from the University of Gottingen in 1866. He worked between 1872 and 1880 as a public health physician in Wollstein (present-day Wolsztyn, People’s Republic of Poland), where he organized a home laboratory and performed his first microbiological studies. He was a professor at the University of Berlin and director of the Institute of Hygiene from 1885 to 1891. He was the director of the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin from 1891 to 1904, and the institute was later named after him.

Koch’s principal studies were devoted to the discovery of microorganisms as the cause of infectious diseases and to methods of combating these microorganisms. For this purpose, Koch undertook expeditions to Egypt, India, New Guinea, and Java. He was the first to isolate a pure culture of the anthrax bacillus, which he had discovered previously. By means of the culture he demonstrated the ability of the bacillus to form spores and explained the pathways for the spread of anthrax. He discovered the tuberculosis bacillus in 1882. Koch formulated the criteria for determining the link between a disease and a given microorganism (Koch’s postulates), which led to the identification of the microbe responsible for Asiatic cholera in 1883. Koch produced the bacterial preparation tuberculin in 1890 and used it for the treatment of tuberculosis. However, the preparation turned out to be ineffective; it was later used only for diagnostic purposes. In this connection, he described the tuberculin reaction known as Koch’s phenomenon.

Koch developed the general methods of bacteriological re-search and proposed methods of disinfection. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1905.


Gesammelte Werke, vols. 1-2. Leipzig, 1912.
In Russian translation:
Bor’ba s infektsionnymi bolezniami, v osobennosti s voiskovymi epidemiiami. St. Petersburg, 1889.
O bakteriologicheskom issledovanii. [St. Petersburg] 1890.


Mechnikov, I. I. Osnovateli sovremennoi meditsiny: PasterListerKokh. Moscow-Leningrad, 1915.
Ianovskaia, M. I. Robert Kokh (1843-1910). Moscow, 1962.