Signature, “Prof. R. Koch / Berlin,” in ink, on an off-white card measuring 3 inches wide by 1 1/2 inches high.
Working with very limited resources, Robert Koch became one of the founders of bacteriology, the other major figure being Louis Pasteur. Koch’s work began during the Franco-Prussian War when he was a district medical officer in Wollstein (Prussian Poland).
He became famous for isolating Bacillus anthracis (1877), the Tuberculosis bacillus (1882) and Vibrio cholera (1883) and for his development of Koch’s postulates. The postulates, probably as important as his work on tuberculosis, say what has to be done to establish that an organism is the cause of a disease.
When Robert Koch published his findings on anthrax in 1876, he was rewarded with a job at the Imperial Health Office in Berlin where he urged the sterilization of surgical instruments using heat.
In Berlin, he improved on the methods he used in Wollstein, including staining and purification techniques and bacterial growth media, including agar plates and the Petri dish (named after its inventor, Koch’s assistant Julius Richard Petri). These devices are still used today. With these techniques, he was able to discover the bacterium causing tuberculosis.
In 1885, Koch became professor of hygiene at the University of Berlin; in 1891, he was made Honorary Professor of the medical faculty and director of the new Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases (eventually renamed as the Robert Koch Institute).
Robert Koch was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1905 for his tuberculosis findings. Considered one of the founders of microbiology, he inspired such major figures as Paul Ehrlich and Gerhard Domagk.
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