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Robert Koch
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Doctor
    (December 11, 1843-May 27, 1910)
    Born in Clausthal, Hannover, Germany
    Founder of modern bacteriology
    Identified the bacteria that cause anthrax, cholera and tuberculosis
    Developed Koch's postulates, four rules used to determine whether a given bacteria is the cause of a specific disease:
    1. The bacteria must be present in every case of the disease
    2. The bacteria must be isolated from the host with the disease and grown in pure culture
    3. The specific disease must be reproduced when a pure culture of the bacteria is inoculated into a healthy susceptible host
    4. The bacteria must be recoverable from the experimentally infected host
    Awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine (1905)
    First recipient of the Robert Koch Medal (1908)
    He married an actress three decades his junior the same year he divorced his first wife (1893).
    He gave in to pressure from the German government and announced the development of the serum tuberculin as a possible cure for tuberculosis before he had finished studying the drug (1890).
    Unfortunately, it proved ineffective for most patients and often fatal for those suffering pulmonary tuberculosis.
    He had a bitter rivalry with Louis Pasteur, claiming, for example, ‘Pasteur’s work on anthrax has led to nothing.’ (Nothing, except a vaccine against the disease.)
    He taught himself to read at age five.
    As a country doctor, he determined the life cycle of the anthrax bacterium in a lab in his home using equipment he built himself (except for a microscope received as a birthday gift from his wife).
    He was a pioneer in growing pure bacteria cultures in dishes of agar and in developing staining techniques for observing bacteria.
    In the last quarter of the 19th century, scientists adopting his techniques identified the germs responsible for over twenty diseases, prompting Koch to note, ‘As soon as the right method was found, discoveries came as easily as ripe apples from a tree.’

Credit: C. Fishel


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