Theodor Escherich
Theodor Escherich was a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n pediatrician
Pediatrics or paediatrics is the branch of medicine that deals with the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents. A medical practitioner who specializes in this area is known as a pediatrician or paediatrician...

  and a professor at universities in Graz
University of Graz
The University of Graz , a university located in Graz, Austria, is the second-largest and second-oldest university in Austria....

, and Vienna
University of Vienna
The University of Vienna is a public university located in Vienna, Austria. It was founded by Duke Rudolph IV in 1365 and is the oldest university in the German-speaking world...

. He discovered the bacterium Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms . Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes can cause serious food poisoning in humans, and are occasionally responsible for product recalls...

, which was named after him in 1919, and determined its properties.

Family and education

Theodor Escherich was born in Ansbach
Ansbach, originally Onolzbach, is a town in Bavaria, Germany. It is the capital of the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Ansbach is situated southwest of Nuremberg and north of Munich, on the Fränkische Rezat, a tributary of the Main river. As of 2004, its population was 40,723.Ansbach...

 as the younger son of Kreismedizinalrat (Medical District Councillor) Ferdinand Escherich (1810−1888), a medical statistician
A statistician is someone who works with theoretical or applied statistics. The profession exists in both the private and public sectors. The core of that work is to measure, interpret, and describe the world and human activity patterns within it...

, and his second wife Maria Sophie Frederike von Stromer, daughter of a Bavarian army colonel. When Theodor Escherich was five his mother died and five years later Ferdinand Escherich moved to Würzburg
Würzburg is a city in the region of Franconia which lies in the northern tip of Bavaria, Germany. Located at the Main River, it is the capital of the Regierungsbezirk Lower Franconia. The regional dialect is Franconian....

 to take up his former position as Kreismedizinalrat and married his third wife. When Theodor was twelve he was sent to a boarding school run by Jesuits
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

  in Feldkirch
Feldkirch, Vorarlberg
- Schools :* Bundesgymnasium und Bundesrealgymnasium Feldkirch * Bundeshandelsakademie und Bundeshandelsschule Feldkirch* Bundesoberstufenrealgymnasium und Bundesrealgymnasium Schillerstrasse...

, Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 for three years. Later he finished secondary education in Würzburg where he attended a Gymnasium
Gymnasium (school)
A gymnasium is a type of school providing secondary education in some parts of Europe, comparable to English grammar schools or sixth form colleges and U.S. college preparatory high schools. The word γυμνάσιον was used in Ancient Greece, meaning a locality for both physical and intellectual...

 (classical language high school) and took his Abitur
Abitur is a designation used in Germany, Finland and Estonia for final exams that pupils take at the end of their secondary education, usually after 12 or 13 years of schooling, see also for Germany Abitur after twelve years.The Zeugnis der Allgemeinen Hochschulreife, often referred to as...

  examination in 1876.

After a half-year military service in Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

  Escherich took up his studies of medicine at the University of Würzburg
University of Würzburg
The University of Würzburg is a university in Würzburg, Germany, founded in 1402. The university is a member of the distinguished Coimbra Group.-Name:...

 in the winter term 1876. Later he attended the universities of Kiel
Kiel is the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of 238,049 .Kiel is approximately north of Hamburg. Due to its geographic location in the north of Germany, the southeast of the Jutland peninsula, and the southwestern shore of the...

 and Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, and returned to Würzburg before passing his medical examination in December 1881 with excellence.

Medical career in Würzburg and München (1882−1890)

After an 18-month service in a military hospital in München, Escherich returned to Würzburg in 1882 to become second and later first assistant to the internist Carl Jakob Adolf Christian Gerhardt
Carl Jakob Adolf Christian Gerhardt
Carl Jakob Adolf Christian Gerhardt ; was a German internist born in Speyer....

 in the medical clinic of the Julius Hospital, Würzburg. Gerhard became Escherich’s doctoral advisor and suggested the topic of his thesis. On 27 October 1882 Escherich was awarded his MD docorate. In the following two years he attended lectures in Vienna (with Hermann von Widerhofer and Alois Monti) and did bacteriological
Bacteriology is the study of bacteria. This subdivision of microbiology involves the identification, classification, and characterization of bacterial species...

 research work at the St Anna Children's Clinic. In August 1884 Eschereich continued his research work in München, where pediatrics had been established as a department of the medical faculty. In October 1884 the Bavarian authorities sent Escherich to Naples
Naples is a city in Southern Italy, situated on the country's west coast by the Gulf of Naples. Lying between two notable volcanic regions, Mount Vesuvius and the Phlegraean Fields, it is the capital of the region of Campania and of the province of Naples...

 to do research work in the actual cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

 epidemic. He also travelled to Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 where he heard lectures by Jean-Martin Charcot
Jean-Martin Charcot
Jean-Martin Charcot was a French neurologist and professor of anatomical pathology. He is known as "the founder of modern neurology" and is "associated with at least 15 medical eponyms", including Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis...

, the renowned neurologist
A neurologist is a physician who specializes in neurology, and is trained to investigate, or diagnose and treat neurological disorders.Neurology is the medical specialty related to the human nervous system. The nervous system encompasses the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. A specialist...


Discovery of Escherichia coli

In 1886, after intensive laboratory investigations, Escherich published a monograph on the relationship of intestinal bacteria to the physiology of digestion in the infant. This work, presented to the medical faculty in München and published in Stuttgart
Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

, Die Darmbakterien des Säuglings und ihre Beziehungen zur Physiologie der Verdauung (1886) (Enterobacteria of infants and their relation to digestion physiology), was to become his habilitation treatise and established him as the leading bacteriologist in the field of paediatrics.

It was also the publication where Escherich described a bacterium which he called “bacterium coli commune” and which was later to be called “Escherichia coli”. For the next four years Escherich worked as first assistant to Heinrich von Ranke at the Munich "Von Haunersche Kinderklinik".

Professor of Pedriatics in Graz and Vienna (1890−1911)

In 1890 Escherich succeeded Rudolf von Jaksch
Rudolf von Jaksch
Rudolf von Jaksch , also Rudolf Jaksch von Wartenhorst, was an Austrian internist. He was the son of physician Anton von Jaksch...

, who had been called to Prague, as professor extraordinary of pediatrics and director of the St Anna children’s clinic in Graz, where he became professor ordinary four years later. While working in Graz, he married Margarethe Pfaundler (1890−1946), daughter of the physicist Leopold von Pfaundler. They had a son Leopold (*1893), who died at age ten, and a daughter Charlotte (called "Sonny") (*1895), who survived to the 1980s.
Escherich made the Graz pediatric hospital one of the best-known institutions in Europe.
In 1902 Escherich succeeded Hermann Widerhofer as full Professor of Pediatrics in Vienna, where he directed the St.-Anna-Kinderspital (St. Anna Children's Hospital).

Escherich became renowned in 1903 when he founded the Säuglingsschutz (Infant Defence Society) and started a high profile campaign for breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from female human breasts rather than from a baby bottle or other container. Babies have a sucking reflex that enables them to suck and swallow milk. It is recommended that mothers breastfeed for six months or...

. He died in Vienna in 1911.


  • 1894 — Honorary member of the Moscow
    Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

     Pediatric Society
  • 1905 — Honorary member of the American Pediatric Society
    American Pediatric Society
    The American Pediatric Society / Society for Pediatric Research are joint professional and advocacy organizations for pediatricians in the United States and Canada....

  • 1905 — Member of the Academy of Science
    Academy of Sciences
    An Academy of Sciences is a national academy or another learned society dedicated to sciences.In non-English speaking countries, the range of academic fields of the members of a national Academy of Science often includes fields which would not normally be classed as "science" in English...

    , St. Louis
    St. Louis, Missouri
    St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

  • 1906 — Awarded title of kaiserlich-königlicher Hofrat
    Geheimrat was the title of the highest advising officials at the Imperial, royal or principal courts of the Holy Roman Empire, who jointly formed the Geheimer Rat reporting to the ruler...

    (Official Imperial and Royal Privy Councillor)
  • 1906 — Member of the Medical Academy in Rome
  • 1909 — Honorary member of the Belgian Liga de la Protection de la Première Enfance

Further reading

  • Barbara A. Oberbauer: Theodor Escherich - Leben und Werk. FAC, Vol. 11,3. [published by the Paul-Ehrlich-Gesellschaft für Chemotherapie e.V.]. Futuramed-Verlag, Munich, Germany 1992, ISBN 3-923599-66-8 (German)
  • Theodor Hellbrügge (Hrsg.) et al.: Gründer und Grundlagen der Kinderheilkunde. Documenta pädiatrica, Vol. 4. Hansisches Verlagskontor, Luebeck, Germany 1979 — also contains Grundlagen und Ziele der modernen Pädiatrie um die Jahrhundertwende by Theodor Escherich (German)

External links

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