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Carl Wilhelm Boeck

Born 1808
Died 1875

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Norwegian physician, born December 15, 1808, Kongsberg; died December 10, 1875, Christiania (Oslo).

Biography of Carl Wilhelm Boeck

Carl Wilhelm Boeck was born in the mining town of Kongsberg to a family with its roots in Flanders. His mother died in childbed and he grew up with his grandmother. After attending Christiania Kathedralskole and Møllers Institut he studied medicine in Christiania, graduating on October 12, 1831. He then worked in various small communities in Norway before he went on a scientific journey to Sweden, Denmark and Germany. From 1833 to 1846 he was a physician in Kongsberg, and from 1845 represented this community in Parliament (Stortinget). In 1846 he became a lecturer with teaching duties in surgery, diseases of the skin, and syphilis at the Det Kongelige Frederiks Universitet in Christiania (University of Oslo), and in 1851 he was appointed full professor of medicine, now also lecturing on fractures and luxations. Upon retiring from his tenure in 1869, he visited America to study the prevalence of lepra among Norwegian immigrants. From 1874 he worked in the skin department of Rikshospitalet – Norway's national research hospital – but died of pernicious anaemia already in December the following year.

From 1850 Boeck had his own skin clinic where he began treating syphilis with syphilisation in 1852. This method is a form of vaccination against syphilis. It consisted in repeated cutaneous inoculations of secrete from soft chancre (which was believed to be the same disease), until inoculation caused no further reaction. This concept of vaccine therapy for syphilis originated with Joseph Alexandre Auzias-Turenne (1812-1870), who first attempted this method on animals, particularly monkeys, in 1844. Auzias-Turenne was never allowed to try his method on humans in a French hospital but died still firmly believing in syphilisation. However, Auzias-Turenne's clinical studies probably influenced Louis Pasteur's (1822-1895) successful rabies post exposure vaccine trials. Another proponent of syphilisation was Casimiro Sperino (1812-1894) in Torino, who practised the method from about 1850.

Boeck was the staunchest advocate of this treatment,in five languages, until his death.

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