Protests by staff save Berlin’s Charité hospitalBMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c5486 (Published 05 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5486
All rapid responses
I was surprised to read in your short article "Protests by staff save
Berlin Charit? Hospital" that you described Robert Koch as a Prussian
physician. Surprised because I have also been taught during my primary and
high school studies that he was...German!
This is interesting because if you have a look at sources in English
language, he is described as Prussian but the German ones certainly
describe him as German. This is probably not just a question of semantic
but is related to the constant chaotic political changes of the time...
Koch was born in the city of Clausthal, which was part the Kingdom of
Hanover at the time and part of the so-called German Confederation. It
became part of integral Prussia only some twenty years after his birth. At
the time, Eastern/Central Europe was torn between divisions related to
national identity problems despite a common language.
But what is probably more important and what make his work and
discoveries even more fascinating are his efforts to work relentlessly
across not only the German-speaking territories in Europe but far away
from his homeland. He studied cholera and leprosy in Africa, India and
He is not only one of the founders of modern microbiology but also
inspired and trained several scientists like Petri or Loffler and this
during an era where borders and identity crises were very much obstacle in
He is considered by some as one of the first (if not the first!) real
European scientist, who recognised that borders should not be barriers for
the propagation of science.
Competing interests: No competing interests