- A dictionary of medical eponyms

Ludwig Traube

Born  1818
Died  1876

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German internist, born January 12, 1818, Ratibor in Oberschlesien; died April 11, 1876.

Biography of Ludwig Traube

Ludwig Traube was born in Ratibor, Silesia, by Jewish parents, the elder brother of Moritz Traube, a wine merchant known for his scientific works. He began his medical studies in Breslau (Wroclaw) in 1835, and already whilst a student he showed a particular interest in physiological problems, undoubtedly influenced by his teacher, Jan Evangelista Purkyne (1787-1869). In 1837 he came to Berlin to study under Johannes Peter Müller (1801-1858) and, in his spare time, had the opportunity to study the works of the great French physicians, above all René-Théophile-Hyacinthe Laënnec (1781-1826) and François Magendie (1783-1855). When Lukas Schönlein was called to Berlin, in 1840, Traube became one of his most attentive students.

Doctor of medicine - to work on cadavers
Ludwig Traube received his doctorate at Berlin in 1840 and, even before passing his state examination, then went to Vienna for some nine months to attend Karl von Rokitansky's classes in General pathology and study physical diagnosis under Josef Skoda (1805-1881).
Back in Berlin, Traube he received his permit to practice medicine in 1841, but in 1843 returned to Vienna, this time to become familiar with the techniques of auscultation and percussion. In 1843 he was once more back in Berlin. Responding to the wishes of some young physicians, he began giving courses in auscultation and percussion, an activity that made his name well known.

Due to a prohibition by the administration for the poor – the Armen-Direction – Traube was practically cut off from the material used for his courses. In 1844 he was forbidden to experiment on human corpses, and thus at first had to do with animal cadavers.

A Jewish teacher in Berlin
Traube was one of the first Jewish physicians to be habilitated as Docent at the University of Berlin after the revolution of February 1848, and in 1849 became Johann Lukas Schönlein's (1793-1864) assistant at the Charité clinic. The 1848 uprising caused a considerable brain drain for Germany, as many resourceful and knowledgeable people fled the rather regulated and unfree life in Germany for USA and even Australia. Schönlein had won the Charité board of directors concession to employ civilian assistants in the clinic, and Traube was the first civilian colleague of Schönlein who was employed at the Charité.

In 1853 Traube took over leadership of a department in the Charité, where he, in 1849, had set up a department for chest diseases, which mainly served for instruction in percussion and auscultation. He was appointed extraordinary professor in 1857 and, after the retirement of Eduard Wolff (1794-1878), his department was elevated to the propedeutic clinic – Propädeutische Klinik.

After Schönlein's retirement, Traube was one of the most famous and beloved of the clinicians, and in 1862 was called to an institute of military medicine as professor. He received the title privy medical counsellor – Geheimer Medicinalrath - in 1866.

Eventually, in 1872, came his appointment as professor at the medical faculty, the same year he first described pulsus bigeminus. After the death of Theodor Frerichs (1819-1885), Traube took over the 1. Medical Clinic.

Doctor, teacher and scientist
Traube was an important scientist and one of the most popular teachers of his time. Among his many famous students was Julius Eduard Hitzig (1838-1907). He advised Christian Albert Theodor Billroth (1829-1894) in the writing of his doctoral thesis.

His reputation as a pioneer of experimental pathology rests to a large degree upon his investigation in 1846 of the results of section of the vagus nerve on pulmonary function. This work was inspired by the French experimental physiologist François Achille Longet (1811-1871). In 1847 he studied suffocation, and then investigated the pathology of fever. In 1849 or 1850, together with Friedrich Wilhelm Felix von Bärensprung (1822-1864), head of the department of syphilitic diseases at the Charité, Traube introduced measurement of temperature as a routine clinical examination method. In 1852 Traube produced the first graphic presentation of a fever course with simultaneous recording of pulse and respiratory frequency.

His clinics at the Charité were extremely popular, and he was kindly and sincere in his handling of patients.

In 1875, on the occasion of the jubilee of the University of Leiden, Traube was named doctor of honour of this university. In his later years he was often sick and frequently had to interrupt his work.

With Benno Ernst Heinrich Reinhardt (1819-1852) and Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow (1821-1902), Traube was co-founder of Beiträge zur experimentellen Pathologie. Only two issues were published, Berlin 1846 and 1847, and these are now extremely rare collectors items.


  • Specimina nonnulla physiologica et pathologica.
    Doctoral dissertation, Berlin, 1840. This work contains some independent observations, contained in three parts:
  • De dyspnoea in pulmonum emphysemate.
  • De telarum primitivarum metamorphosi.
  • Casus cretinismi scrofulosi, quam observavit auctor.
  • Die Ursachen und die Beschaffenheit derjeningen Veränderungen, welche das Lungenparenchym nach Durchschneidung der Nn. vagi erleidet. Berlin, 1845.
  • Beitrag zur Lehre von den Erstickungserscheinungen am Respirationsapparat.
    Beiträge zur experimentellen Pathologie, 1846 and 1847.
  • Ueber periodische Thätigkeits-Aeusserungen des vasomotorischen und Hemmungs-Nervencentrum.
    Centralblatt für die Medicinischen Wissenschaften, Berlin, 1865, 3: 881-885.
    First description of the rhythmic variations in tone of the vasoconstrictor centre (Traube-Hering-Mayer waves).
  • Die Symptome der Krankheiten des Respirations und Circulations-Apparats. Vorlesungen gehalten an der Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universität zu Berlin. Berlin: Hirschwald, 1867. This monograph is an independent, but uncompleted work.
  • Gesammelte Beiträge zur Pathologie und Physiologie.
    2 volumes, Berlin, Hirschwald, 1871-1878.
    Volume I contains his experimental investigations, volume II his clinical works. A third volume, published posthumously by his nephew Albert Fränkel (1848-1916) contains his diaries and some scientific works left.
  • Zur Fieberlehre. In his: Gesammelte Beiträge . . . Berlin, 1871, part 2, 1: 624-656, 679-683, 503-505, 582-587.
  • Ein Fall von Pulsus bigeminus nebst Bemerkungen über die Leberschwellungen bei Klappenfehlern und über acute Leberatrophie.
    Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift, 1872, 9: 185-188, 221-224.
    First description of pulsus bigeminus. Translated in Willius & Keys, Cardiac Classics, 1941, pp. 590-599.

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