(December 11, 1843 – May 27, 1910)

Koch is one of the scientists whose works supplanted Galen’s age-long Miasma Theory: by consolidating the more modern and more accurate Germ Theory of Diseases. He developed what became known as the Koch’s Postulates in the 19th century. In it he demonstrated the abundance of pathogenic microbes in individuals afflicted with infectious diseases. He also proved that these microbes could be isolated from their hosts, and grown into pure laboratory cultures capable of instigating the same illnesses if (and/or when) inoculated into healthy persons. Finally, he showed that subsequent isolates from these new patients were identical to the pathogens from the initial hosts. Robert Koch was the first person who conclusively proved the pathogenicity of Bacillus anthracis. He was also the first to discover Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Although Vibrio cholerae was first isolated by Filippo Pacini, it was Koch’s rediscovery (30 years later) which brought attention to it. After these bacteriological probes, he turned his attention to protozoological ones: studying Plasmodium falciparum and Entamoeba histolytica. He remained a lifelong researcher; and helped pioneer modern laboratory techniques: thanks to the early impetuses from Jakob Henle (the anatomy professor who whetted his appetite for evidence-based medicine). Koch would in turn inspire a young researcher named Paul Ehrlich. His groundbreaking works advanced laboratory analysis, improved public health, and instigated further research on infectious diseases. Several honors, including the Robert Koch Gold Medal (for accumulated excellence in biomedical science) and the Robert Koch Prize (a €100,000 reward for major biomedical discovery), are dedicated to him.


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