Like France and Britain, Germany has traditionally been one of the top ranking countries in the world in the advance of biological and medical knowledge. In the 19th century, Germany took second place to none in science, but with the coming of World War I and particularly the Nazi regime of the nineteen thirties, followed by World War II, Germany’s scientific position declined, and is only now coming back into its own. Furthermore from our particular point of view here, the destruction occasioned by World War II was so great that much of Germany’s visible and tangible scientific heritage has gone forever. Nevertheless, some things survive, which we will describe, and we will also explain other important aspects of which there is virtually no surviving record. Germany is politically divided into West and East, a division stemming from the end of World War II. West Germany is a very beautiful country, and has excellent roads, their “Autobahns” being the originators of our freeways. However, there are often much more pleasant routes than the Autobahns. All road directions we give are from Bonn, the capital, unless otherwise stated. In addition their national railway, the Deutches Bundesbahn, is unsurpassed, and there are many good bus services as well.


Location – 340 kilometers northeast of Bonn, and about 50 kilometers northeast of Göttingen.
Train – From various places.
Road – From Bonn take the A59 north towards Köln, but skirt Köln to the east and join the A1 or E73 towards Wuppertal and continue towards Dortmund. Just west of Dortmund join the E63 towards Kassel. Just south of Kassel turn north along the E4 or A7 towards Göttingen. North of Göttingen turn off along the 241 to Northeim and follow this through Osterode to Clausthal-Zellerfeld.

Clausthal-Zellerfeld is situated in the beautiful Harz Mountains not far from the border of East Germany. The town was the birthplace of the great German doctor and bacteriologist Robert Koch (1843-1910).

Robert Koch was contemporary with Louis Pasteur (see under France), and between the two of them they founded the concepts and techniques on which modern bacteriology is based. To put it in more meaningful terms they established the ideas which formed the basis for the conquest of infectious diseases.

Koch was born the third child in a family of 13, and his parents encouraged their children to learn and to travel. By the age of 5 he had taught himself to read and write, and before entering school he was an avid and knowledgeable collector of plants and animals. He did well at the local Gymnasium School, and at 19 he entered Göttingen University to study natural sciences. However, he soon transferred to medicine and was greatly influenced by the professor of physiology, Jacob Henle. No bacteriology was then taught in medical schools, but Henle firmly believed that contagious agents were living organisms, and there can be little doubt that this had a profound impact on Koch’s mind.

He received his doctor’s degree in 1866, and in 1867 married Emmy Fraatz, also from Clausthal. For five years after this the couple moved to a variety of places, but none suited them until they settled in Wollstein (now Wolsztyn, Poland), and it was here that Koch did the basic work which established him as one of the foremost scientists of his day. Whenever his practice would permit he spent his spare time at the microscope in his makeshift laboratory, and more and more began to observe bacteria. In particular, he started to examine the rod-like bacteria causing the disease anthrax in sheep, and with a stroke of true genius he cultured these (in vitro) using the aqueous humor of a cow’s eye as the medium. The aqueous humor is the fluid in the chamber of the eye between the cornea and the lens, and is about as free from bacterial contamination as any living substance can be. Thus he was able to get a pure culture of the anthrax bacillus, something never achieved before. Later he used solid gelatin to ensure pure cultures. He described the whole life cycle of the organism, and demonstrated that when his pure cultures were injected into mice they did indeed contract anthrax. With this work he established the basic principles of bacteriology, which are still valid today; namely, that bacterial cultures must be pure to have any biological meaning, and that these pure cultures will produce a specific disease when injected into an appropriate animal.

Koch’s work soon brought him recognition, and in 1880 he was appointed an advisor to the Imperial Department of Health in Berlin, and this became his permanent home. From Berlin, Koch’s techniques rapidly spread throughout the world. He demonstrated that steam surpassed hot air and carbolic acid sprays (see Lister under England) in its sterilizing power, and thus revolutionized hospital procedures. In fact Koch’s ideas of hygiene were soon applied to every aspect of private and public health, and are still in use today. Perhaps his greatest achievement of all came in 1881 when he isolated the tuberculosis bacillus, and demonstrated the disease could be transmitted by inoculation. It is almost impossible for us today to realize the scourge of tuberculosis, since in the last 100 years it has been virtually eradicated in many parts of the world, principally due to the pioneer work of Robert Koch. He tried unsuccessfully to use so called “tuberculins” to control tuberculosis. Its control had to wait for more modern techniques.
Koch did not confine his investigations to Berlin. Wherever there was epidemic disease, it was likely that he would be found there to investigate its causes at first hand. He studied cholera in Egypt and India, sleeping sickness in Africa, and malaria in New Guinea. In all cases preliminary controls were effected.

The latter half of the 19th century was a time of imperialist expansion, intense nationalism and rivalry between nations, particularly between France and Germany. It is really not surprising therefore that Koch as a German and Louis Pasteur as a Frenchman became embroiled in this, and their scientific judgements suffered the consequences. In addition Koch was not the easiest of men to deal with. He was authoritarian, often aggressive, and vicious in his criticisms of other people’s ideas. Thus he had many enemies, and his reputation was not helped in 1893 when he separated from his wife to marry a young actress by the name of Hedwig Freiburg, with whom he had become infatuated. However, his scientific achievements were so great that his reputation survived all. He was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine in 1905, and died 5 years later a national and international hero. His ashes were deposited in his institute in Berlin.

The Birth House of Robert Koch

Osteröder Strasse 13 (corner of Bartelsstrasse)

This house was where Robert Koch was born. It is state property and preserved, but is privately occupied. There is an easily visible plaque over the front door which reads:

wurde am 12 Dezember
1843 in diesem Hause geboren.

Robert Koch House
Kronenplatz (near the Post Office)

This is the house where Koch spent his childhood, and like his birth house it is state property but privately occupied. A plaque over the front door reads:

In diesem Hause verlebte
seine Jungendzeit
1854 – 1862.


Location – 140 kilometers southeast of Bonn and one of the principle cities of Germany.
Train – From all major cities direct.
Road – From Bonn take the A3 or E5 towards Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, and exit at Frankfurt (there are many exits).

Frankfurt-am-Main is a huge industrial city, badly damaged during World War II but largely rebuilt. It was here that Paul Ehrlich (1854-1915) did much of the work that has so profoundly affected modern medicine.


Paul-Ehrlich-Strasse 42-44
Opening hours:
Normal business hours.
No charge for admission.

Paul Ehrlich’s place in the history of medicine, rests not on any one major discovery, but on the fact that his work laid the foundations on which modern hematology, immunology and chemotherapy are built. Through his demonstrations of the chemical reactions of dyes with living cells, hematology and later histology came into their own as sciences. Likewise his methods of assaying and standardizing antitoxins are still the basis of immunology. Finally he was the first person to produce a chemical substance which had meaningful chemotherapeutic effects. All remarkable contributions to biology and medicine.

Ehrlich was born of middle class parents in Strehlen (now Strzelin, Poland). His mother and father encouraged education, and by all accounts Paul was a happy and enthusiastic boy. He attended the local primary school, and at age 10 went to the Gymnasium in nearby Breslau. He entered the University of Breslau at 18 to study natural sciences, but soon transferred to Strasbourg University to study medicine. His student days at university were checkered, for he returned to Breslau and also attended Freiburg and Leipzig Universities, finally receiving his medical degree in 1878. However, before he graduated, he had already published his first paper on the effects of aniline dyes on living cells, and his doctoral dissertation was on the same subject. Fortunately the importance of his work was recognized at once, and upon graduation he was appointed to the research staff of the famous Charite Hospital in Berlin.

In Berlin, Ehrlich continued his research on the reactions of dyes on living cells, and gradually developed the fundamental concept that to understand biological processes, it would be necessary to describe them in chemical terms. The importance of this in the future development of biology cannot be overstressed.

In 1883 Ehrlich married Hedwig Pinkus, and the marriage proved extremely happy. They had two daughters to whom both mother and father were closely attached, and the family relationship no doubt helped Ehrlich in his somewhat troubled and insecure professional career. Shortly after his marriage he received an appointment at the University of Berlin, but due to changes in those in control this did not last long. In 1889 he was without appointment, but set up his own private laboratory where for many years he conducted fundamental experiments in immunology. In particular he worked out methods for assaying toxins and antitoxins, and for determining their correct physiological doses.

As a result of this work, Paul Ehrlich’s genius was once more recognized, and in 1899 he was made director of a new “Serum Institute” in Frankfurt-am-Main. Here he spent the rest of his active life, during which time he developed the first effective chemotherapeutic drug, Salvarsan. It was particularly effective against a bacterial group referred to as “spirochaetes,” which includes the organism causing the deadly disease syphilis. Salvarsan can be described as a first step only, for it had many undesirable side effects, but it was effective enough that it gave hope for the future discovery of better chemotherapeutic drugs, and this has indeed proved to be the case, first with sulpha drugs and later penicillin (see under London and Fleming). He was awarded the Nobel prize in 1908.

Paul Ehrlich’s great work “die Experimentelle Chemotherapie der Spirillosen” (Experimental Chemotherapy of Spirochaetal Diseases) was published in 1910, and although the last 5 years of his life were personally happy for him, he was very distressed by the tragedies of World War I. He died in 1915 after a short illness. Paul Ehrlich was basically a simple man, who never sought fame or fortune, but his life’s work has had a lasting effect on biology and medicine. He is buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Frankfurt.

Paul Ehrlich founded the institute which bears his name, and directed it for the last 15 years of his life. It is now owned and operated by the Ministry of Health and its function is the control and testing of vaccines. There is a small “Memorial room” of Ehrlich memorabilia which is open to the public, and worthwhile seeing. It is also of great historical interest that although Paul Ehrlich was Jewish, he was so highly regarded by the German people that the Nazis saw fit not to rename Paul-Ehrlich-Strasse to suit their political ends.


Location – 85 kilometers south of Frankfurt-am-Main.
Train – From many major cities direct.
Road – From Frankfurt-am-Main take the A5/E4 Autobahn south and then take the A656 turnoff to Heidelberg.

Heidelberg is one of the oldest and most picturesque towns in Germany. It is on the river Neckar, which is a tributary of the Rhine. Its origins are lost in time, but its famous castle (the Schloss) was begun as early as the 13th century, and its university was founded in 1385, making it one of the oldest in Europe. During the reformation the latter was a center of Calvinist doctrines, and the same was true of Nazi doctrines under the Hitler regime. However, after World War II the university was reestablished on traditional free academic foundations, and today it is one of the leading universities in Germany. Fortunately, Heidelberg escaped any serious damage during World War II.

The University

The university of Heidelberg has throughout its history been noted for its achievements in areas other than natural sciences. Nevertheless, it would be a pity to miss it entirely for this reason. Its facilities are scattered, but much of the historical aspects are centered around the Gabengasse, and these are well worth a visit. In particular do not miss their famous library, with holdings going back many centuries.


Heidelberg Schloss
69 Heidelberg
Opening hours:
Daily, 10.00 – 17.00
Small charge for admission.

Apothecaries were the forerunners of the modern druggist. However, the transition was not a simple one. Very often they competed with physicians, and the two professions were often at odds. By modern standards most apothecaries would be considered quacks, but it must be remembered that their transition into druggists was completely dependent upon the development of modern chemistry, and this did not really occur until well into the 19th century. Be that as it may, “the wares and the arts” of the apothecary, throughout the ages, are a major part of medical history. Since apothecaries were an important part of society, there were many of them, and a lot of their materials have survived. Throughout Europe, and indeed in parts of the United States too, there are many apothecary museums, but none surpasses this one in the Heidelberger Schloss.

One has to climb the hill up to the castle to reach the museum, which is housed in a wing of a former Renaissance palace built int he middle of the 16th century by the Electro Palatinate Otto Heinrich. Other parts of the castle are much older, and the whole setting is very beautiful. The museum was founded in 1937, and opened to the public in Munich in 1938. There however, it was badly damaged in 1944 during World War II, and it was not until 1957 that it found a new home in its present location.

There are about 15 rooms, with displays going back four centuries. The historical knowledge and artistic abilities of the curators are outstanding, and in addition to the actual materials used by apothecaries, whole contemporary laboratories have been constructed. There is also a priceless collection of old and rare books on the apolthecary’s profession.


Location – 80 kilometers north of Munich.
Train – From Munich direct.
Road – Take the A9/E6 Autobahn north from Munich and exit at Ingolstadt.

The town of Ingolstadt, being on the Danube, has played a long and important role in the history of Bavaria, and fortunately escaped serious damage during World War II. What concerns us here is the history of the university, and particularly what survives in the form of an anatomy theater, which is now a superb medical museum. The University of Ingolstadt was founded in 1472, and the original building survives in the form of the Hoheschule in Goldknopfgasse. For 200 years the university was a leading educational institution. However, during the thirty years war (1618-1648) it suffered badly and went into decline, but rose again in the 18th century. In 1800 the University of Ingolstadt was moved, first to Landshut and then in 1826 to Munich, where it became the University of Munich.


Deutsches Medizinhistorisches Museum

Alte Anatomie
Anatomiestrasse 20
Opening hours
April 1 – October 31, Tuesday – Sunday, 10.00 – 12.00
and 14.00 – 17.0. Closed Mondays.
November 1- March 31, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, 10.00 – 12.00;
Saturday and Sunday, 14.00 – 17.00. Closed Mondays and Wednesdays.
Small charge for admission.

The Anatomy Theater of the University of Ingolstadt was built between 1723 – 1736, and it is the oldest north of the Alps. It was a major training place for medical doctors until 1800, when the university moved, and this magnificent building fell into private hands, eventually becoming a laundry! In 1930 it was rescued from complete decay, being purchased by the town of Ingolstadt, but it was not until 1969 that restoration was begun, with the subsequent establishment of a medical museum. In 1972 the University of Munich celebrated its 500th anniversary, and the following year the museum was opened. It is of interest to note that it is really the “brain child” of Dr. Heinz Goerke, a distinguished Munich physician, whose drive and dedication has created it in its present form.

The exterior part of the building is completely restored to its original form, and is most striking. At the back is a little courtyard garden, which was the original herb garden of the medical school. The historical displays are on two floors, arranged more or less chronologically, so that one gets a feeling for the whole historical development of medicine. Upon entering there are displays of Egyptian, Grecian and Roman medicine, and fascinating displays of “home medicine” in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The displays are not confined to cases of instruments, as is so commonly the case, but include large pieces of medical apparatus such as autoclaves, iron lungs, anaesthetic machines, etc., including the original sterilizer from the laboratory of Robert Koch (see Clausthal-Zellerfeld). The second floor is mainly devoted to military medicine, which has played such a large role in the development of medicine in general. This is a medical museum in a lovely setting, with rich collections and a uniqueness of character with which the visitor will not be disappointed.


Location – 80 kilometers north of Bonn. It is a northern suburb of Düsseldorf near the airport.
Train – From Düsseldorf direct.
Road – From Bonn take the A555 noth skirting Köln to the west and join the A57 north and then the A52 towards Düsseldorf. Cross the Rhine and then turn left (north) along route 1 towards Duisberg. This leads past the airport (to the west) and straight into Kaiserswerth.

Kaiserswerth is a very old and beautiful town and is best known today for its famous nursing school, where no less a person than Florence Nightingale studied (see under London and Middle Claydon, England).

Diakoniewerk Kaiserswerth

Alte Landstrasse 1221
4000 Düsseldorf 31
Opening hours:
Normal business hours.
No charge for admission.

A literal translation of Diakoniewerk is “service in the name of God,” and it is an order of Protestant Deaconesses. In English it is referred to as The Institute of Protestant Deaconesses. The institute set in a large and beautiful park is an easy walk through the cemetery from the town center. It was founded in 1836 by Theodor Fleidner, and quickly became known for its dedication to nursing the sick, and eventually for training nurses. Florence Nightingale visited it twice, first in 1850 for two weeks, and again in 1851 for three months. The original hospital in which she studied still stands. It is called Altenheim Stammhaus and is at 32 Kaiserswerther Markt (corner of An St. Swidbert). Florence Nightingale was very impressed with the administration of the hospital, and the dedication of the deaconesses, but thought little of their sanitation procedures. In any case Florence Nightingale quickly became their most famous student, and her methods of sanitation soon found their way to the deaconesses.

The historical aspects of the institute are preserved in the archives of the library, presided over by Sister Ruth Felgentreff, who speaks fluent English. She is very enthusiastic, and delighted to show everything to interested visitors. Her treasures contain handwritten letters by Florence Nightingale and first editions of all her works, as well as many other interesting things. In 1975 a new 410 bed hospital was added to the complex and it has been named the Florence Nightingale Hospital. Inside the lobby is a lovely bronze bust of her. Of great interest also is the adjacent cemetery segregated into Protestant and Catholic sections! The Diakoniewerk Kaiserswerth has a major place in the history of nursing, and will not disappoint the historically-minded visitor.


Location – 130 kilometers east of Bonn, and 80 kilometers north of Frankfurt-am-Main.
Train – Direct from Frankfurt-am-Main, and may other cities.
Road – From Bonn take route 478 to Waldbröl and Siegen. At Siegen take route 62 to Biedenkopf and Colbe, and then turn south along route 3 to Marburg/Lahn.

Marburg is a very old and beautiful university town astride the river Lahn, and fortunately escaped damage during World War II. Today it is the home of the Behringwerke and Institut, which were founded by the great German doctor Emil von Behring (1854-1917) towards the end of the 19th century.

Behringwerke AG und Institut

D-3550 Marburg/Lahn 1
Opening hours:
Normal business hours.
No charge for admission.

This enormous complex is at the village of Marbach, about 3 kilometers northwest of the center of Marburg/Lahn.

It is to Emil von Behring that we chiefly owe many of the concepts of antitoxin therapy, and the control of the dread diseases of tetanus and diptheria. He was one of twelve children in a teacher’s family in Hansdorf (now part of Poland). While at school he developed his interest in medicine, but due to the poverty of his family he saw little chance of ever becoming a doctor. However, one of his teachers was able to have him admitted to medical school in Berlin, on the condition that upon graduation he promise to serve in the Prussian Army for 10 years. Behring accepted this and carried out his promise. While still a student he began to think about the problem of combating infectious diseases, and shortly after he graduated he wrote a paper raising the question as to whether it might be possible to “disinfect” the living organism internally as well as externally, and he pursued this theme all his life. In 1896 he married Else Spinola. It was a happy marriage and he was devoted to his wife. They had six sons.

While in the army, Behring was sent to Berlin where he joined the staff of the Institute of Hygiene and worked under its director, Robert Koch (see under Clausthal-Zellerfeld). Here he also met and collaborated with Paul Ehrlich (see under Frankfurt-am-Main). On completing his army service in 1889 he stayed on at the institute, and it was here that he developed his brilliant ideas on serum therapy and his theory of antitoxins. In good scientific fashion these theories were tested in the laboratory, and by 1890 he had proven that the blood of tetanus-immune rabbits possessed a substance which destroyed the tetanus toxin, and most important, that this property was maintained when the serum of the rabbit was injected in other animals. The discovery made it possible to achieve therapeutic effects by serum transfusions. It was a giant step along the road to “internal disinfection.” Behring coined the word “antitoxin” to describe this effect, and in due course reliable inoculations were developed for both tetanus and diphtheria.

In 1894 Behring moved to Marburg/Lahn where he set up what is now known as the Behring Institut and continued his active research. He later established the Behringwerke. By this time he was being hailed as an international hero and honors increasingly poured upon him. He was raised to the nobility, and in 1901 was awarded the first Nobel prize in medicine for his life’s work.

At Marburg, Behring devoted himself to the fight against tuberculosis, although he admitted that he had little success. His later life was saddened by the horrors of World War I, but he was able to take some consolation in the fact that his tetanus vaccination saved the lives of millions of soldiers. He died in Marburg in 1917.

Behring’s ideas and techniques have since been used to combat many other infectious diseases, and his name is certain to live as one of the great benefactors of mankind.

The Behringwerke is toay a large corporation, with worldwide operations, manufacturing pharmaceuticals, and doing reserach mainly in various aspets of immunology. The Behring Institut is housed in the library, and comprises Emil von Behring’s papers and other memorabilia concerning his life and work. This is all under the direction of Frau L. Zeditz, the archivist, who is very cooperative. However, the “gem” is the so-called “Behring room” in another building nearby, and can be seen by request (in advance). Tours of the works are also available, but arrangements must be made well in advance. The “Behring room” itself is not the original office he occupied, but is an exact replica of it. Everything in it is the original – his personal library, desk, furniture, pictures, etc. It is beautifully cared for, and truly a great experience to be in it. He is buried in a private mausoleum on company property, but his grave can be seen by request, again in advance.
In Marburg itself there is also a monument to Emil von Behring, consisting of a head bust. It is set in a nice alcove, and located on Pilgrimstein (at the corner of Deutschhausstrasse) opposite the side of the Elisabeth-Kirche.
Also associated with Emil von Behring, is his former residence “Villa Behring” (now offices and reserach laboratories of the University of Marburg), situated at Wilhelm-Roser-Strasse 2. It is off Ketzerbach, a few hundred meters from the Elisabeth-Kirche.


Location – 190 kilometers east of Stuttgart.
Train – From many major cities direct.
Road – Take the A8/E11 direct from Stuttgart.

Munich is the capital of Bavaria and the principle city of Southern Germany. It lies astride the river Isar, a tributary of the Danube, and its origins go back to at least the 11th century. From then until now it has played a major role in the political, cultural and economic life of the area. Unfortunately Munich was severely damaged during World War II, and much of its tangible cultural heritage has gone. However, two major things survived, namely its university and the Deutsches Museum – the latter only just! Munich has a modern and magnificent railway system, the S-Bahn and U-Bahn, with its hub at the Hauptbahnhof.

Universität Munchen

Opening hours:
Normal business hours.
No charge for admission.

The center of the University of Munich is located in the block at the corner of Schelling and Leopoldstrasse, but there are other parts of it scattered around the area. The origins of the university go back over 500 years, to when it was located in Ingolstadt. However, it is only in recent times that it has played a major role in the sciences, but it would be a pity to miss it on that account. The university is close to many of Munich’s great art galleries, and the visitor will find much of interest there.

Deutsches Museum

Opening hours:
Daily, 9.00 – 17.00. Closed on public holidays.
Small charge for admission.

The Deutsches Museum is one of the great science museums of the world, and is located on an island in the river Isar, with entrances off the Steinsdorfstrasse and Erhardtstrasse. Some of their priceless collections were severely damaged during World War II, but a remarkble job of restoration has been achieved.
As an introduction to the Deutsches Museum, we can do no better than quote from one of their guidebooks:

“The Deutsches Museum, which was founded in Munich in 1903 by Oskar von Miller (1855-1934), is a cultural and educational institution devoted to the whole field of exact science and technology. Its aim is to familiarize the widest possible public with the basic phenomena and laws of science and with the methods and tools of technology. It aims also to present visually the historical development of scientific knowledge and of its technical applications. The museum tries to achieve these objets by the display of originals and reproductions of historic apparatus and machinery and by means of models and demonstrations. Many of the demonstrations are either permanently working or designed so that they can be operated by the visitor. In many cases tools and machines are represented together with the workers using them. Reconstructions of factories and workshops, either full-scale or in the form of dioramas, give some conception of industrial conditions at various times. The Deutsches Museum not only presents German achievements, but also displays outstanding achievements of other countries. By showing that so many peoples have contributed to the growth of science and technology, it seeks to promote mutual understanding between nations.”

Most of the displays in this extensive museum tend to be in the physical sciences and technology. However, many of them have played such a major role in the development of biology and medicine, that they are entirely relevant to the latter, and every visitor interested in the development of science cannot fail to appreciate them. There is, however, some biology, and a particularly fine “Hall of Fame” with portraits of many great scientists throughout the ages. There is also an extensive library in the history of science, which can be used by qualified scholars upon application to the librarian.

We cannot recommend the Deutsches Museum too highly. For what it is, it is unsurpassed in the world.


Location – 70 kilometers north of Bonn and 15 kilometers west of Düsseldorf.
Train – Direct from Düsseldorf.
Road – From Bonn take the A555 north, and skirt Köln to the west and join the A57 north. Exit at Neuss.

Neuss is a heavily industrialized town, but it was here that one of the founders of the cell theory was born – Theodor Schwann (1810-1882), and his memory is preserved.

In all probability the English scientist Robert Hooke (1635-1703) was the first person to see and describe “cells” as we understand them today. In addition, Jean Baptiste Lamarck (see under Paris) described them in 1809. However, it was a long time after this before the universal nature of cells as the basic unit of life was understood, and this discovery was made by Mathias Schleiden (1804-1881) and his compatriot Theodor Schwann. The importance of this discovery cannot be overestimated: It is one of the basic foundations on which all modern biology rests.
Schleiden was the son of a physician. He was born in Hamburg and spent his childhood there. At the age of 20 he went to the University of Heidelberg to study law. In 1827 he received a doctorate degree, and returned to Hamburg to practice law. However, he became deeply dissatisfied with the legal profession, finally abandoning it, and at the age of 27 he started in again at the university to study natural science, with a concentration in botany. At first he attended Göttingen and then Berlin where he met Theodor Schwann. Schleiden received his doctorate from Jena University in 1839, and although he stayed on there for a while, he had a restless nature and subsequently moved to Dresden and Dorpat.

In 1838 while still at Jena, and before he got his doctorate, he published a paper “Beiträge zur Phytogenesis” (Contributions to Phytogenesis) in which he clearly put forth the basic cellular nature of plants, and in 1842 this was elaborated in detail in his textbook “Grundzüge der wissenschaftlichen Botanik” (Foundations of Scientific Botany). It is one of the great books in scientific history, establishing that plans are cellular, and set the stage for modern botany. This is the work for which he is remembered most, but he was a very prolific writer on a whole variety of subjects. He was also popular as a lecturer, and did much to improve the standards of education in the natural sciences. He did at Frankfurt-am-Main in 1881.

Theodor Schwann was a rather rare type of individual, who had a very short productive scientific career, while most of his life was spent in pondering religious problems and in teaching. He was born in Neuss, and by all accounts was a model child and very religiously oriented. In view of this it was assumed by all that he would enter the church, and at 16 he went to study at a Jesuit College in Cologne. However, the Jesuits did not quite have the expected effect on him, and he soon renounced theology to study medicine at the University of Bonn, and there he met for the first time the famous physiologist, Johannes Müller. Schwann went on to Würzburg and eventually Berlin where he received his doctorate degree in medicine in 1834. In the meantime Müller had also moved to Berlin, and upon receiving his degree Schwann immediately went to work in Müller’s laboratory, and soon afterwards met Mathias Schleiden who was also working there. Müller, Schleiden and Schwann had an enormous influence on each other, and it was here between 1834-1839 that Schwann did his brilliant work culminating in the pulbication in 1839 of his book “mikroskopische Untersuchungen uber die Übereinstimmung in der Struktur and dem Wachsthum der Thiere and Pflanzen” (Microscopic Investigations Dealing with the Parallels of Structure and Growth in Animals and Plants).
Not only did this firmly establish the “cell theory” as we know it today, but Schwann argued for the theory in purely mechanistic terms. In so doing he made it plain that the theological theories of life were quite unnecessary, and that it was a phenomenon subject to the same laws as the physical sciences. Thus just as the cell theory is part and parcel of biology today, so also is the mechanistic view of life.

With the publication of this classic work, Schwann’s productive scientific career was more or less over. He was violently attacked for his ideas, and quickly turned backt o theology and teaching. In the same year as his great work was published he went to Louvain as a Professor of Anatomy, and finally in 1848 to Liege where his career was completed. The evidence suggests that he was a lonely and unhappy man all these years until his death in 1882. Nevertheles, Schwann’s place in biological history is secure as one of the chief founders of the cell and mechanistic theories of life.

Unfortunately very little of the physical associations of Schleiden and Schwann survive. However, in Neuss there is a large bronze statue of Schwann. He is seated, and it is twice life-size. It is located in its own alcove at the entrance to the Hauptpost (main post office) at the corner of Neustrasse and Promenadenstrasse. The inscription at the base reads simply:

1810 – 1822

We find it a pity that there is apparently no other tribute to Schleiden and Schwann.


Location – 60 kilometers north of Bonn and 30 kilometers east of Düsseldorf.
Train – Direct from Düsseldorf.
Road – From Bonn take the A59 north and skirt Köln to the east, then join the A1 or E73 towards Remscheid and Wuppertal. Exit at Remscheid-Lennep.

Remscheid-Lennep is a manufacturing town known for its textiles in the heart of the Ruhr industrial region. But above this it is famous as the birth place of Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923), the discoverer of x-rays, and in the town is a large museum dedicated to him.

Deutsches Röntgen-Museum

Schweimerstrasse 41
(near the Moll Platz)
5630 Remscheid 11 – Lennep
Opening hours:
Monday – Thursday, 10.00 – 17.00
Friday, 10.00 – 14.00, Sunday 14.00 – 17.00
Closed Saturdays.
Small charge for admission.

The director (1983) is Herr Ernst Streller and his secretary is Frau Erika Hamburg. They both speak English, and welcome visitors from foreign countries.

Wilhelm Röntgen was born at 1 Gänsemarkt (near the Moll Platz) on March 27th, 1845 and there is a plaque on the house to this effect. At the age of three the family moved to Appeldoorn in Holland, and here Wilhelm attended school, and at 16 he entered the Utrecht Technical School. Some minor thing happened to him here, which is not clearly understood, but the result was that he was denied admittance to the University of Utrecht. However, this did not stop him and he was soon admitted to the Polytechnic School in Zurich, Switzerland, as an engineering student. In 1868, at the age of 23, he graduated as a mechanical engineer, and the following year received his doctor’s degree. At this time he became associated with the physicist, August Kundt, and in 1871 he followed Kundt to the university of Würzburg (see under Wurzrug). The following year he married Bertha Ludwig. However, Röntgen did not at this time stay at the University of Würzburg, but went on to Strasbourg and Giessen, finally returning to Würzburg in 1888 as Professor of Physics. In 1894 he became Rector of the university.

Röntgen’s momentous discovery was made in 1895 in his small laboratory in the Physics Institute, and it is of greater interest that this was a case of “chance favoring the prepared mind,” for the discovery was really outside his main field of research, which was the physics of solids. The moment Röntgen suspected he had observed a new phenomenon he concentrated wholly on it. Within six weeks he had demonstrated the extraordinary penetrating powers of the rays, had taken what we would now call x-ray photographs and observed the outlines in these of the bones in his fingers. He also took an x-ray photograph of his wife’s hand. So clear and of such obvious importance was his discovery that before the end of the year he sent a short paper on it to the Physical and Medical Society of Würzburg. By January 1896 he was world famous, and a new tool for medicine was released which in many respects has revolutionized the science. Röntgen himself named his new discovery x-rays (they are called Röntgen rays in Germany), simply because they were unknown, and he clearly pointed out their potential uses in medicine, radiology, biology, physics, metallurgy, etc. Since then they have been applied in even more ways.

Not surprisingly, Röntgen quickly became a German national hero and was awarded the first Nobel prize for physics in 1901. But, as was characteristic of his nature, he gave the prize money to the University of Würzburg. He also had no intention of seeking fame and glory, and was soon back in his laboratory studying the physics of solids. He wrote over 70 papers on physics, of which only 3 were on x-rays. He was always disappointed that the rest received little recognition! The later years of his life were clouded by World War I and the death of his wife in 1919. He himself retired in 1920 to his country house at Wilheim, near Munich, and died there in 1923. His name lives on in the rays he discovered, as does our debt to this modest man.

The Deutsches Röntgen-Museum was established in 1930 by a group of local doctors. However, it rapidly became so important that it was acquired by the town of Remscheid and is now responsible to a Board of Directors, comprised of distinguished citizens.

The displays are very extensive and educational, and are constantly added to by gifts from manufacturers of their latest x-ray equipment. The various rooms and displays include:

1. Röntgen’s personal effects, including his many photographs taken on his travels in Europe.
2. Portraits of his family and other contemporaries.
3. Busts and original articles, letters, etc.
4. A reconstruction of a doctor’s office circa 1905.
5. Röntgen’s private library, also his lovely old desk and clock.
6. A reconstruction of Röntgen’s laboratory at Würzburg.
7. Reconstructionso f diagnostic treatment rooms with life-size displays and
8. Demonstrations of technical applications of x-rays.
9. Many others.

Röntgen’s birth house is only 300 meters up the road and it is used as the museum’s library and also as a guest house for visiting scholars.
In summary, we cannot recommend this museum too highly. Remscheid is also a pleasant place to spend a night while visiting the museum, and there is an excellent and comfortable hotel, the Berline Hof, close by in the Moll Platz. A nice place to toast Wilhelm Röntgen and his legacy.


Location – 100 kilometers east and slightly south of Frankfurt-am-Main.
Train – Direct from Frankfurt-am-Main.
Road – Take the A3/E5 Autobahn from Frankfurt-am-Main to the east and exit at Würzburg.

Würzburg, on the river Main, is one of the oldest cities of Germany, has been the seat of a Bishop since 741, and its university was founded in 1582. Despite the fact it was severely damaged in the final days of World War II, it is an extremely picturesque and fascinating old town. Of great interest to us, is that it was here in the University of Würzburg in 1895 that Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (see also under Remscheid-Lennep) discovered the rays named after him, more commonly known as x-rays. The consequent impact of this discovery on both biology and medicine can hardly be exaggerated.

Physikal Institut

Universität Würzburg
Röntgenring 8B
87 Würzburg
Opening hours:
Normal business hours.
No charge for admission.

It was in this building in 1895 that Röntgen discovered x-rays. It is located on the Röntgenring close to the corner of the Koellikerstrasse. On the outside of the building is a large plaque which reads as follows:

In diesem hause entdeckte
W.C. Röntgen Im Jahre 1895
Die nach ihm Benannten Strahlen

which in translation reads: “In this building in the year 1895, W.C. Röntgen discovered the rays named after him.” The actual room where the discovery was made is still there, but is now a modern physics laboratory. Permission to see it and other items of historical interest in the Physics Institute can be requested at the office. It is also possible to see the lecture room that Röntgen used. It is more or less the same as in his day. Of great interest also are three display cases containing some of Röntgen’s equipment, etc. Amongst other things exhibited here are:

His Nobel Laureate Certificate;
His hunting gun, with a very early x-ray photograph of the loading breech;
An x-ray photograph of the hand of Professor G. Koelliker (Professor of
Anatomy), and another of his wife’s hand;
A commendation from the German Physics Society, signed by both Max Planck and Albert Einstein!

These are of great interest, but it should be realized that the main Röntgen Museum is in Remscheid-Lennep (see previously).

Institut fur Geschicte der Medizin der Universität

Koellikerstrasser 6, Rückgebaude
87 Würzburg
Opening hours:
Normal business hours.
No charge for admission.

It is perhaps a help to know that not far from the Physics Institute is the Institute for the History of Medicine, which is in charge of Professor Dr. Gundolf Keil, who is very knowledgeable about Röntgen. It is located slightly off the main street, behind some main buildings, and not easy to find – but persevere!

In concluding this chapter on Germany we would like to say that no doubt many people who read this may have their image of Germany tainted by the memories of two terrible world wards. Be that as it may, in recent years we have found Germany a magnificent and hospitable country to be in, and nothing can erase its great scientific tradition and contributions.