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Robert Koch

Health and the People>Germ Theory>Robert Koch

What do we know about Koch?

  • Dates: 1843 – 1910
  • Place of Birth: Germany
  • Background & Education: University of Göttingen
  • Career: Government adviser to Imperial Department of Health, Professor at Berlin University, Director of Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases. Awarded Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1905
  • Famous Publications: Various – research on anthrax, tuberculosis and cholera

Contribution to Medicine

  • Built upon the work of Pasteur by linking specific diseases to the particular microbe that caused them. The technique was called ‘microbe hunting’.
  • Identified anthrax bacteria (1876) septicaemia bacteria (1878), tuberculosis bacteria (1882) and cholera bacteria (1883).
  • Used revolutionary scientific methods:
    • Used agar jelly to create solid cultures, allowing him to breed lots of bacteria.
    • Used dye to stain the bacteria so they were more visible under the microscope.
    • Used photography (a new invention at that time) to record his findings.

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