Rudolf Ludwig Carl Virchow (English /ˈvɪrkoʊ, ˈfɪrxoʊ/; German: [ˈvɪɐ̯çoː]; 13 October 1821 – 5 September 1902) was a German doctor, anthropologist, pathologist, prehistorian, biologist, writer, editor, and politician, known for his advancement of public health. He is known as “the father of modern pathology” because his work helped to discredit humourism, bringing more science to medicine. He is also known as the founder of social medicine and veterinary pathology, and to his colleagues, the “Pope of medicine”.
Born and bred in Schievelbein (Świdwin) as an only child of a working-class family, he proved to be a brilliant student. Dissuaded by his weak voice, he abandoned his initial interest in theology and turned to medicine. With special military scholarship, he earned his medical degree from Friedrich-Wilhelms Institute (Humboldt University of Berlin) under the tutelage of Johannes Peter Müller. He worked at the Charité hospital under Robert Froriep, whom he eventually succeeded as the prosector.
Although he failed to contain the 1847-1848 typhus epidemic in Upper Silesia, his report laid the foundation for public health in Germany, as well as his political and social activities. From it, he coined a well known aphorism: “Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale”. He participated in the Revolution of 1848, which led to his expulsion from Charité the next year. He published a newspaper Die medicinische Reform (Medical Reform) during this period to disseminate his social and political ideas. He took the first Chair of Pathological Anatomy at the University of Würzburg in 1849. After five years, Charité invited him back to direct its newly built Institute for Pathology, and simultaneously becoming the first Chair of Pathological Anatomy and Physiology at Berlin University. The campus of Charité is now named Campus Virchow Klinikum. He cofounded the political party Deutsche Fortschrittspartei, by which he was elected to the Prussian House of Representatives, and won a seat in theReichstag. His opposition to Otto von Bismarck‘s financial policy resulted in an anecdotal “Sausage Duel” between the two. But he ardently supported Birmarck in his anti-Catholic campaigns, the social revolution he himself named as Kulturkampf (“culture struggle”).