Rudolf Virchow

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Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow (October 13, 1821September 5, 1902) was a German doctor, anthropologist, public health activist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist and politician.


  • For if medicine is really to accomplish its great task, it must intervene in political and social life. It must point out the hindrances that impede the normal social functioning of vital processes, and effect their removal.
    • 1849 (quoted in Pathologies of Power, by Paul Farmer, page 323).
  • Medical statistics will be our standard of measurement: we will weigh life for life and see where the dead lie thicker, among the workers or among the privileged.
    • 1848 (quoted in Infections and Inequalities by Paul Farmer, page 1.
  • Omnis cellula e cellula
    • Every cell from a cell.
  • Liebt man sich wirklich, so ist es ja nicht schwer, die Toleranz zu üben, denn die Toleranz ist die Tochter der Liebe -- es ist die eigentlich christliche Eigenschaft, die freilich von der heutigen Christenwelt nicht geübt wird.
    • If there is real love, it is not difficult to exercise tolerance, for tolerance is the daughter of love -- it is the truly Christian trait, which, of course, Christians of today do not practice.
    • in a letter to his father dated 7 April 1851, published in Briefe an seite Eltern, 1839 bis 1864 (1907).
  • "Between animal and human medicine, there is no dividing line—nor should there be."
    • 1856 (Quoted in: Klauder JV: Interrelations of human and veterinary medicine. N Engl J Med 1958, 258:170-177).
  • "Cellular pathology is not an end if one cannot see any alteration in the cell. Chemistry brings the clarification of living processes nearer than does anatomy. Each anatomical change must have been preceded by a chemical one."
    • attributed to Rudolph Virchow Coper, H., Herken, H., 1963. Dtsch. Med. Wochenschr. 88,2025– 2036.
  • "The task of science is to stake out the limits of the knowable, and to center consciousness within them."
    • 1849 (R. Virchow. Der Mensch (On Man). Berlin, 1849. English translation in: L. J. Rather, Disease, Life and Man -- Selected Essays of Rudolf Virchow, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA, pp. 67–70, 1958).

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