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Hermann Friedrich Stannius

Born 1808
Died 1883

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German physiologist, born March 15, 1808, Hamburg; died January 15, 1883, Sachsenburg.

Biography of Hermann Friedrich Stannius

Hermann Friedrich Stannius was the son of a merchant, Johann Wilhelm Julius Stannius, and the former Johanna Flügge. After attending the Johanneum in Hamburg, he began his medical studies at the Akademisches Gymnasium there in 1825. To complete his studies, Stannius went to Berlin in 1828 and then to Breslau, where he finished a doctoral dissertation in comparative anatomy on November 26, 1831. He returned to Berlin, where he became an assistant at the Friedrichstädter-Krankenhaus (1831-1837) while working as a general practitioner. Stannius was habilitated as Dozent here. Simultaneously he investigated a great number of questions in entomology and pathological anatomy.

On October 3, 1837, Stannius, then aged twenty-nine, was offered an appointment as full professor of comparative anatomy, physiology, and general pathology at the Rostock University and as director of the institute for the same fields. Besides these disciplines he also taught histology.
He also became a member of the Grossherzogliches Mecklenburg-Schwerin Medizinal-Kollegium in Rostock, replacing Samuel Gottlieb von Vogel (1750-1837) and from 1860 held the title of Obermedizinalrat.

Although he had been in poor health since 1843, he succeeded to the rectorship of the university in 1850 and carried out much fruitful scientific research until 1854. Beginning in 1854 his illness, a serious nervous disease, connected with mental disturbances, grew worse, and in 1862 it obliged him to abandon his work. The last twenty years of his life were spent in a mental hospital at Sachsenburg.

Although his health and his position at the university allowed Stannius to undertake scientific work for only seventeen years, he nevertheless gained a reputation in various fields of research. He first worked in entomology, dealing with the structure of the diptera and with deformities of insects.

In Berlin his main work was in general pathology. His outstanding monograph was the second volume of Lehrbuch der vergleichenden Anatomie der Wirbeltiere (1846). He also investigated the nervous system and the brains of sturgeons and dolphins (1846, 1849), and he conducted pharmacological studies on the effects of strychnine and digitalis (1837, 1851).

He was a long-time friend of Rudolph Wagner (1805-1864), an anatomist, zoologist and physiologist at Göttingen University. Of the contributions he undertook to write for Wagner’ Dictionary of Physiology, he was able to finish only the article on fever (1842), which he said resulted from a “changed mood” of the nervous system.

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