Cholera and Tuberculosis were two of the most dangerous killer diseases in the late 19th century. Cholera was nicknamed 'King Cholera' because no one seemed to be able to cure it. Tuberculosis was known as the 'White Death' because sufferers vomited up white matter as their lungs disintegrated.
Meet the man who made a breakthrough in the fight against these diseases, Robert Koch.
Who Was Robert Koch?
Koch was a German scientist, born in Hanover in 1843. Koch read Louis Pasteur's work and in 1872 began research into the microbes affecting diseased animals and people.
He won the Noble Price in 1905 for his work on tuberculosis.
What made him famous?
In 1878 Koch discovered that microbes cause wounds to go septic, but his big breakthrough came when he decided to stain microbes with dye, enabling him to photograph them under a microscope.
Using this method he was able to study them more effectively and prove that every disease was caused by different germs. He identified the microbes that caused tuberculosis in 1882 and cholera in 1883.
How did he do this?
Koch's discoveries were the result of careful research and observation using the microscope, photography and dyes. As a result of his work, the German government also set up an 'Institute of Infectious Diseases' in Berlin in 1891 for medical research and development. These developments set the pattern for the future. In the 20th century medical research has increasingly involved teams of researchers supported by large public or private funds.
Results of his Research
The scientific evidence of microbes helped reformers in public health prove that pollution spread disease. It meant certain kinds of action could be taken to prevent certain types of disease, since cholera was carried in water, for example, its spread could be prevented with clean water supplies.
Long Term Importance
Koch was responsible for establishing the new 'Science of Modern Bacteriology '.
Other scientists would continue to improve our knowledge of disease and germs by using his methods.
By 1900 he and his students had identified 21 germs causing diseases. Koch's assistant, Emil Behring, developed the first anti-toxin that could help to destroy the poison spread by bacteria in the blood stream. Koch's research on bacteria won him the Nobel Prize in 1905.