Wilhelm His jr
Biography of Wilhelm His jr
Wilhelm His was the son of the equally famous Basel anatomist of the same name (1831-1904) but achieved fame in his own right. He received his medical education at the universities of Geneva, Leipzig, Bern, and Strassburg. He passed the state examination in Strassburg in 1888 and obtained his medical doctorate in Leipzig in 1889. In Leipzig he was and assistant to Heinrich Curschmann. He was habilitated in internal medicine in 1891, and in 1895 was appointed professor extraordinary at the University of Leipzig.
Already as a student of medicine he conducted research on the pyridine metabolism, and was assistant physician at the medical clinic when he, in 1893, discovered and described the specialised muscle fibres known as the bundle of His running along the muscular partition between the left and right chambers of the heart. He found that these fibres help communicate a single rhythm of contraction to all parts of the heart. He was one of the first to recognise that the heartbeat has its origin in the individual cells of heart muscle.
In 1901 His took over as physician-in-chief in the department of internal medicine at the Friedrichstadt hospital in Dresden. The following year he was called to Basel as ordinarius of his speciality, but moved to Göttingen in 1906. Already the following year he received the chair of internal medicine in Berlin and became director of the first medical clinic at the Charité. He held his tenure in Berlin until 1926.
During World War I, His served as an advisory internist with several armies. In 1916 he described Trench Fever in Volhynia in Russia. In September 1918, he became dean of the medical faculty in Berlin, and in 1928 was elected rector of the University of Berlin. He retired in 1932.
Wilhelm His was a sophisticated conversationalist, as well as a musician and Painter. Besides his medical research he also occupied himself with medical history, publishing The History of the Medical Clinic at Leipzig. He spent his last years in Brombach in Wiesental. In several of his works, His glorified war and he was an advocate of moderate eugenics, however, without being an anti-Semite or helper of the Nazis. He died on November 10, 1934, and was buried in his native city of Basel.