Appendix 5 - Virchow

by Michael Greger, MD and United Progressive Alumni

[ Medical School Resources | Appendices | Discussion ]

Politics is nothing more than medicine on a grand scale - Rudolph Virchow

Virchow, the "Father of Biomedicine," had over 2000 publications.[75] "It is no exaggeration," one authority wrote, "to herald Virchow as the principal architect of the foundations of scientific medicine." Although rabidly sexist - evidently declaring that, "Woman is a pair of ovaries with a human being attached, whereas man is a human being furnished with a pair of testes" - in letters to his parents he described himself as a, "socialist and member of the 'extreme left.'"[76] "If you want to achieve anything," he said, "you have to be radical."

He envisioned doctors as "natural attorneys of the poor."[77] "Medical instruction," he said in an address to medical students, "does not exist to provide individuals with an opportunity of learning how to earn a living, but in order to make possible the protection of the public." And on his eightieth birthday he proclaimed, "Trust the people and work for them."[78]

"May the rich remember during the winter," Virchow remarked, "when they sit in front of their hot stoves and give Christmas apples to their little ones, that the shiphands who brought the coal and the apples died of cholera. Ah, it is so sad that thousands always must die in misery, so that a few hundred may live well."[79]


[75] Eisenberg, L. "Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow, Where are You Now When We Need You?" American Journal of Medicine 77(1984):524-532.

[76] Dunn, J. "The Unkindest Cuts." Sunday Times 14 April 1991.

[77] Bloch, H. "Rudolf Virchow." New York State Journal of Medicine 1974(July):1471-1472.

[78] Waitzkin, H. "The Social Origens of Illness: A Neglected History." International Journal of Health Services 11(1981):77-103.

[79] Taylor, R and A Rieger. "Medicine as Social Science." International Journal of Health Services 15(1985):547-559.

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