Friedrich Theodor von Frerichs
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.