Rudolf Virchow

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Virchow, Rudolf

(ro͞o`dôlf fĭr`khō), 1821–1902, German pathologist, a founder of cellular pathology. He became professor at the Univ. of Würzburg (1849) and professor and director of the Pathological Institute, Berlin (1856). He contributed to nearly every branch of medical science as well as to anthropology, and he introduced sanitary reforms in Berlin. Virchow was a member of the Prussian lower house and later of the Reichstag (1880–93) and he was a leader of the liberal Progressive party opposed to BismarckBismarck, Otto von
, 1815–98, German statesman, known as the Iron Chancellor. Early Life and Career

Born of an old Brandenburg Junker family, he studied at Göttingen and Berlin, and after holding minor judicial and administrative offices he was elected
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. He founded (1847) the Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und für klinische Medizin and wrote numerous works, including Die Cellularpathologie (1858, tr. 1860).


See E. H. Ackerknecht, Rudolf Virchow (1954).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Virchow, Rudolf


Born Oct. 13, 1821, in Schivelbein; died Sept. 5, 1902, in Berlin. German scientist and political figure; founder of modern pathological anatomy and of the theory of cellular pathology.

Virchow graduated from the department of medicine of the University of Berlin (1843); in 1856 he became a professor of the department of pathological anatomy (which was especially established for him at the university) and of general pathology and therapy and at the same time the director of the Pathology Institute. Basing his work on the cell theory of body structure, Virchow asserted that any pathological process is the sum total of disturbances occurring in each cell. Virchow studied almost all the disease processes of man that were known in his time; he presented the pathologic-anatomic chracteristies and explained the pathogenesis of the most important human diseases and of a number of general biological processes, such as tumors, tuberculosis, tissue re-generation, and inflammation. On the basis of epidemiologic research he affirmed the social nature of many diseases. Virchow’s research and his theory of cellular pathology had a great influence on the development of medicine; however, his theory was one-sided and especially morphologic and mechanistic in character. In 1847, in collaboration with Reinhardt, he founded the journal Archiv für pathologische Anatomic, Physiologic und fur klinische Medizin, known as Virchow’s Archive; this journal is still published today. Virchow was also concerned with questions of anthropology, ethnography, and archaeology. He was named an honorary member of almost all the medical academies and societies of all the countries in the world.

In the final period of his life Virchow came forward as a violent opponent of the evolutionary teachings of C. Darwin. He was a member of the Reichstag from 1880 to 1893. From 1861 to 1884 he was one of the founders and leaders of the bourgeois-liberal Progressivist Party; in the period of so-called constitutional conflict in Prussia in the 1860’s he op-posed the Bismarck administration’s indifference toward the budgetary rights of the Landtag and the enlargement of the army. After the formation of the Freethinkers Party (1884) he became one of its leaders. Reflecting the evolution of German liberalism as a whole, he began to move politically more to the right in this period.


In Russian translation:
Tselliuliarnaia patologiia kak uchenie, osnovannoe na fiziologicheskoi i patologicheskoi gistologii, 2nd ed. St. Petersburg 1871.


Meyer, E. R. Virchow. Wiesbaden [1956].
Virchow-Bibliographic, 1843-1901. Edited by W. Becher [et al.]. Published by J. Schwalbe. Berlin, 1901.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.