Monday, September 19, 2016

1848: Rudolf von Kolliker strengthens convulsive theory of asthma

Rudolf Albert von Kolliker (1817-1905) (5, page 489)
In the 18th century William Cullen believed muscle was a continuation of a nerve, and he used this as his proof that asthma was a nervous disorder.  In 1848, a Swiss histologist by the name of Rudolf Albert von
Kolliker proved Cullen's claim to be wrong.

Kolliker was born on July 6, 1817, in Zurich, Switzerland  He began his secondary education at the University of Zurich in 1836, and then the University of Bonn in 1838.  He later studied at the University of Berlin where he became a pupil of two great physicians by the names of Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle and Johannes Muller.  From these men he learned about the microscope and microscopic anatomy.  (1, page 422)(2, page 194)(3)(4)

Friedrich Gustav Jakob Henle (1809-1885) was
one of Johannes Muller's pupils, one of his prosectors,
and later one of von Kolliker's professors.
 He became the greatest histologist of his time,
and one of the greatest anatomists of all time.
 (5, pages 483-486)(6)
He received his medical degree from Heidelberg in 1842, and became Henle's prosector in 1843 (that means that he prepared a dissection for demonstration). This set him up nicely to become professor of anatomy and physiology at Zurich in 1844.  In 1847 he became professor of anatomy and physiologyat Wuzburg, where he was offered an opportunity to specialize in microscopic anatomy, and where he spent the rest of his active life. (1, page 422)(2, page 194)(3)(4)

He was among the first physicians to study the microscopic structures of the body, and he proved that cells did not just form on their own, only by existing cells.  He also was the first to isolate and observe minute cells called smooth muscle cells (unstriated muscle cells), and advanced scientific knowledge of nerve cells, nerve fibers, and red blood cells. (1, page 422) (2, page 194)(3)(4)

Johannes Muller (1801-1858) was one
of the first physicians to use the microscope
to study the microscopic structures
of the body.  (5, pages 475-478)
Upon further inspection, he discovered that smooth muscle cells lined the bronchiolar air passages all the way down to bronchioles as small as 0.18 milimeters in diameter. (2, page 194)

By his study of such minute structures of the human body he became one of the fathers of histology, or the study of tissues.

His research helped strengthen the convulsive or spasmotic theory of asthma in that he confirmed both the studies of Franz Daniel Reisseissen, who proved muscular fibers wrap around the air passages, and J.B. Williams, who proved these fibers constrict when stimulated.

He resisted all offers to take him away from the "quiet academic life of the Bavarian town, where he died on the 2nd of November 1905. (4)

  1. Daintith, John, editor, "Biographical encyclopedia of scientists." 2009, 3rd edition, Florida, CRC Press
  2. Geddings, W.H., author of the chapter on "Bronchial Asthma," in the book  "A System of Practical Medicine," edited by William Pepper and Louis Star,Volume 3, 1885, Philadelphia, Lea Brothers and Co.
  3. "Rudolf Albert von Kolliker,",, accessed 4/4/14
  4. "Rudolf Albert von Kolliker," 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica,, accessed 4/4/14
  5. Garrison, Fielding Hudson, "An introduction to the history of medicine," 3rd edition, 1821, Philadelphia and London, W.B. Saunders Company
  6. "Friedrich Gustav Jacob Henle,",, accessed 4/4/14
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