Johannes Friedrich August von Esmarch
Biography of Johannes Friedrich August von Esmarch
Johannes Friedrich August von Esmarch was the first to introduce a first-aid kit on the battlefield.
He was the son of Physikus Theophilius Christian Kaspar Esmarch (died 1864). He matriculated at the University of Kiel and completed his education at Göttingen. He qualified as a physician and obtained his medical doctorate at Kiel on October 7, 1848, after having been an assistant to Bernhard Rudolf Konrad von Langenbeck (1810-1887) at the Kiel surgical hospital since 1846.
In 1848 Esmarch was called up to serve as a junior surgeon in the war against Denmark. He was taken prisoner by the Danes, but afterwards exchanged, and was then appointed as surgeon to a field hospital. During the truce of 1949 he qualified as a Privatdozent at Kiel, but on the fresh outbreak of war he returned to the troops and was promoted to the rank of senior surgeon.
After the war he returned to Kiel where he was director of the surgical clinic from 1854, and was appointed head of the general hospital and professor of surgery in 1857. He remained in this position until 1899.
In 1864 he once more participated in the Schleswig-Holstein war with Denmark, distinguishing himself with his efforts at the field hospitals of Flensburg, Sundewitt and Kiel. In 1866 he was called to Berlin as a member of the commission on military hospitals and also to take the superintendence of the surgical work in the hospitals there.
When the Franco-German War broke out in 1870, Esmarch was appointed surgeon-general – Generalarzt – to the army. He first worked in Kiel and Hamburg with the organizing of the voluntary aid, and later in Berlin as a consultative surgeon at the great military barracks hospital on Tempelhofer Feld.
Esmarch was one of the greatest authorities on hospital management and military surgery. He introduced first aid training for both military and civilian personnel, and his handbooks of military surgical techniques were the best in the field and were used extensively.
Esmarch was married twice, first to the daughter of his teacher Bernhard Langenbeck and, in 1872, to a royal princess, Henriette von Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augusten¬burg, aunt of Empress Auguste Victoria. The second marriage made him an uncle to Wilhelm II. He was raised to the heritable nobility by Wilhelm II in 1887
When he retired voluntarily in 1899 he was a Geheimrat (Privy Counsellor) and Ober-Medizinalrat and was titulated Exzellenz