Wednesday, September 12, 2007
The discoverer of leukemia
Rudolf Virchow was one of the two men who first described leukemia in 1845 (the other was John Hughes Bennett, an Englishman who was Professor of Medicine in Scotland). Virchow, as well as being the greatest pathologist ever, was also a Public Health Specialist and social reformer, and something of a politician. In this respect he quarreled with Bismark, the German Chancellor. Bismark challenged him to a duel, and being the one who was challenged, Virchow had the choice of weapons. He chose sausages. I came across this fascinating fact and the mind's picture of two hirsute Germans bashing each other with German sausages was funny but undignified. This is how Virchow wanted to fight to the death with a sausage. He proposed that one of the sausages should be injected with a deadly bacterium. Then each would choose a sausage and eat it. One of them would die a horrible death in writhing agony. After all, skill with a pistol or sword should not be the determining factor in an argument. If they could not agree by discussion, why not let chance sort out their disagreement. Bismark withdrew his challenge.