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Emil Ponfick

Born 1844
Died 1913

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German pathologist, born November 3, 1844, Frankfurt am Main; died November 3, 1913, Breslau.

Biography of Emil Ponfick

Emil Ponfick studied medicine in Tübingen, Freiburg and Heidelberg, where he obtained his doctorate in 1867. After a period of time as assistant to the famous Heidelberger surgeon Karl Otto Weber (1827-1767) he undertook pathological-anatomical studies with Friedrich Daniel von Recklinghausen (1833-1910) at Würzburg, and then in 1868 moved to the pathological institute in Berlin as assistant to Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), becoming 1st assistant in 1873. Whilst in Berlin he published on the pathology of the liver and spleen, as well as the blood and bone marrow, embolism of the mesenteric artery.

Ponfick was appointed ordinarius of pathology at Rostock in 1873, succeeding Theodor Ackermann (1825-1896). In 1875 he accompanied the grand duke of Mecklenburg on an expedition to Egypt, Nubia, Sinai, Cypros, and Constantinople.

In 1876 Ponfick moved to Göttingen, where he was appointed to a foundation chair of pathology, and there continued his work on haematological topics such as myelogenous leukaemia and haemaglobulinaemia. In 1878 he succeeded Julius Friedrich Cohnheim (1839-1884) in Breslau (Wroclav), where he became director if the pathological institute and from 1884 also Medicinalrath and member of the Provinzial-Medizinal-Kollegium, eventually becoming Geheimer Medicinalrath.

Ponfick remained in Breslau until his death. It was here that he established the identity of aspergillosis and the animal and human forms of acetinomycosis, writing a textbook on the subject in 1882. He also established that the ray fungus in man and cattle are identical, he made important contributions to myxoedema and published a large topographical atlas of medical/surgical diagnosis. He last work was “Bright Disease” which commanded his attention when one of his sons died of chronic renal disease. He managed to finish his monograph just before he died.

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