Biography of Moritz Schiff
Moritz Schiff was an apprentice at the Senckenbergische Institut in his native town. He subsequently studied in Heidelberg, Berlin, and Göttingen, where he obtained his doctorate. He then went to Paris in order to study physiology under François Magendie (1783-1855) and François Achille Longet (1811-1871), and zoology in the Jardin des plantes. Upon his return to Frankfurt he became director of the ornitological part of the zoological museum. In 1848 he served with the revolutionary army of Baden as a physician
From 1854 to 1863 he was professor of contemporary anatomy at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Before this he had attempted to become habilitated as Privatdozen of zoology in Göttingen, but this was recjected by the Hannoverian government, because of alleged dangerous doctrines of his youth.
From 1863 to 1876 he was professor pf physiology at the Istituto di Studii superiori in Florence, then professor of physiology at the University of Geneva, where he died in 1896,
Schiff was one of the most important biologists of the ninteenth century. His first major contribution to medical science was in 1856, when he proved that removal of the thyroid gland in dogs was fatal. He later discovered that death could be prevented by grafts or injections of thyroid extracts. Schiff went to a butcher's shop and asked for thyroid glands from sheep. He grinded it and gave it to his patients that had been operated for struma. They received injections of the extract twice a week, and after a few motnhs the patients were cured.
Schiff was the first to note the influence of the cerebral cortex on blood circulation, the role of the vagus nerve in heart function and Schiff's biliary cycle.
Schiff was critisised for his animal experiments. He was forced to abandon his laboratory in Florence, and flee to Switzerland after being put on trial by antivivisectionists. At his trial, he made an eloquent defense of the need and moral justification for animal experimentation. However, he was an early user of anaesthetics on hos experimental animals.
Moritz Schiff was the brother of the chemist Hugo (Ugo) Schiff, 1834-1915, who spent most of his career in Florence.