- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Friedrich Theodor von Frerichs

Born  1819
Died  1885

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German internist, born March 24, 1819, Aurich, Hannover; died March 14, 1885, Berlin, Germany.

Biography of Friedrich Theodor von Frerichs

Friedrich Theodor Frerichs studied in Göttingen from 1838 and received his doctorate at that University in 1841. Already as a student he took a particular interest in chemical investigations. He left Göttingen in 1842, settling for a brief period of time as a practitioner in his native town, acquiring the reputation of an accomplished ophthalmologist. However, he soon - in 1846 - returned to Göttingen, to embark on a scientific career.

Here he was habilitated as Privatdocent, concerning himself particularly with physiological-chemical investigations. He became a collaborator in Rudolph Wagner’s (1805-1864) large Handwörterbuch der Physiologie (Braunschweig, 1842-1953), for which he delivered the papers Synovia and Thränensecretion, as well as the classical treatise Verdauung, which immediately made his name known in the learned world. At the same time he exercised a highly successful activity as teacher and took over the medical polyclinic, which, with his students, took him to the neighbouring communities.

Frerichs was appointed extraordinary professor in 1848 and then successively rejected several invitations. But in 1850 he accepted a call to Kiel as director of the clinic. During the two years he stayed here, he laid the foundation for his world-wide reputation, which rested for a large pat on his excellent monograph on Bright’s kidney disease, a work chiefly based on investigations made in Göttingen. It was also here that he published his famous theory of uraemic intoxication and introduced the experiment as a fully valid proof in clinical medicine.

He also undertook several scientific educational journeys.

In 1851 he came to Breslau as ordinarius of pathology and therapy, as well as director of the medical clinic. His seven years here made up a peak of his career. In Breslau he was something of a reformer, re-evaluating pathology in a rather original way, in that he himself undertook some 600-700 sections each year and headed the Breslau clinic to a blossoming previously unknown. It was in 1858, in Breslau, he commenced publishing his famous Klinik der Leberkrankheiten, and gained fame for his masterly diagnoses. It was here, too, he discovered leucine and tyrosine in urine in yellow atrophy of the liver, the anatomical changes in liver cirrhosis and malaria perniciosa, the pigment storage in the blood in melanaemia, etc. His last work, Ueber den Diabetes (1884) was based on 400 cases from his private practice as well 55 autopsies.

In 1859 he was called to Berlin to succeed Schönlein, finishing the second volume of his major work there in 1862. At the 25th anniversary as a clinician, Frerichs was professor at the Berlin faculty and head physician at the Charité. On this occasion he was raised to the nobility, adding von to his name, while also receiving numerous other honours.

Frerichs was for many years a member of the Prussian scientific deputation for the medical services (das Medicinalwesen) and acted as a lecturing advisor to the ministry of culture. He died of apoplexy. He was the German founder of experimental pathology whose emphasis on the teaching of physiology and medical biochemistry helped give clinical medicine a scientific foundation, and more than perhaps any other man he was responsible for the development of scientific teaching in Germany.

In 1882 Frerichs was the founder of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Innere Medizin – The German Society for Internal Medicine.

    "The main part of the science of disease is of a purely descriptive character; a scientific interpretation of facts and a clear insight into the intimate connection subsisting between different phenomena, which may precede all attempts at a rational method of cure, having been attained in a few instances only…. Therapeutic researchers must be regulated in the same manner as pathological…. The more careful tracing of the progress of morbid processes, and the insight into their modes of origin and retrogression, enable us to determine the principles of treatment with greater clearness than formerly." 1860.


  • De polyporum structura penitiori. Göttingen, 1843.
  • Untersuchungen über Galle in physiologischer und pathologischer Beziehung.
    Göttingen, 1845.
  • Commentatio de natura miasmatis palustris.
    Habilitation thesis, Göttingen, 1845.
  • Über Gallert- und Colloidgeschwülste. 1847.
  • Über das Mass des Stoffwechsels, sowie über die Verwendung der Stickstoffhaltigen und stickstoffreien Nahrungsstoffe.
    Archiv für Anatomie, Physiologie und wissenschaftliche Medicin, Leipzig, 1849.
  • Ueber Hirnsklerose.
    Archiv für die gesammte Medicin, Jena, 1849, 10: 334-350.
    First important account of multiple sclerosis. Frerichs' clinical account for the first time recognised remissions as a characteristic feature of MS. In addition, he described nystagmus as a symptom of the disease, this physical sign later being incorporated into the famous Charcot's triad. Frerichs also made a major contribution by providing the first medical description of mental disorders in MS, recognising the possible impact of the disease on cognitive and other higher functions of the brain.
  • Die Bright’sche Nierenkrankheit und deren Behandlung.
    Braunschweig, Friedrich Vieweg und Sohn, 1851. 286 pages.
    Frerichs divided the progression of renal disease into three stages: initial hypeamia, fatty infiltration and exudation, and organization leading to fibrosis and atrophy. This is one of the earliest works on kidney disease to incorporate histological appearances. However, Frerichs did not recognize the primary involvement of the glomerulus in what later became known as glomerulonephritis (Klebs's disease).
  • Klinik der Leberkrankheiten.
    2 volumes and atlas. Braunschweig, Friedrich Vieweg und Sohn, 1858-1861. 2nd and improved edition, 1861.
    English translation:
  • A Clinical Treatise on Diseases of the Liver.
    London: New Sydenham Society, 1860.
  • A Clinical Treatise on Diseases of the Liver.
    Translated by Charles Murchison, New York : W. Wood, 1879.
    Frerichs's classic monograph on diseases of the liver summarized the existing knowledge and included his own important work on the subject. The first description of progressive familial hepatolenticular degeneration, known as Kinnier Wilson's is in volume 2, pp. 62-64.
  • Ueber den Diabetes. Berlin, 1884.
  • U. Schwartz and E. Ritz:
    Glomerulonephritis and progression- Friedrich Theodor von Frerichs, a forgotten pioneer.
    Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation, Oxford, 1997, 12: 2776-2778.

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