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Ferdinand August Maria Franz von Ritgen

Born 1787
Died 1867

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German obstetrician, born October 11, 1787, village Wulfen, Grafschaft Salm-Salm, Westfalen; died April 14, 1867, Giessen.

Biography of Ferdinand August Maria Franz von Ritgen

Ferdinand August Maria Franz von Ritgen was the son of Johann Philipp Ritgen (1760-1831) and Marie Louise D'Arton (1764-1822). His mother was on a temporary stay in the village of Salm-Salm when he was born. He studied in Giessen from 1806 and received his doctorate at that university in 1808. In the same year he became district surgeon (Physicatschirurg des Amtes Belke) to the district of Belecke, now in Nordrhein-Westfalen, and in 1809 received permission to practice internal medicine. In 1811 he became Amtsarzt for Meschede and Physikatsrat in Stadtberge, where he married Clara Harold. His son Hugo was born there.

Ritgen was habilitated in 1814. On March 17 that year he succeeded Ludwig Leonhard Hegar (1789-1814) in the chair of surgery and obstetrics at the medical faculty in Giessen, and at the same time was made director of the newly founded delivery institute. He lived for free in a government flat, for which he was obliged to teach midwives for free.

He began his teaching of midwifery in 1816 and organized the establishment of a school for midwives. The personnel available to him consisted of a chief midwife, a calculator and a nurse.

He was also appointed Referent for medical matters to the government of the province of Oberhessen with the title of medical counsellor – Medicinalrath. In 1821 he became a government counsellor – Regierungsrath, in 1823 doctor of honour of law at the faculty of philosophy in Giessen.

From 1824 Ritgen was physician to the city hospital, where he established a medical-surgical clinic. He was rector of the university 1826-1827, and in 1830 received the title of privy medical counsellor – geheimer Medicinalrath. Ritgen resigned his academic duties in 1833, but continued lecturing at the university. He was knighted to become a member of the heritable nobility in 1839, celebrated his fiftieth doctoral jubilee in 1858, and died in 1867.

Ritgen was one of the most distinguished obstetricians in his time. In the history of medicine he is particularly remembered for his teaching of midwives.

Despite little support he ran a school for midwives and medical students that was exemplary for its time. The teaching periods for the midwives lasted two months, April-May and October-November.

As the first German university, Giessen on September 6, 1815 made the midwife Regina Josepha Henning von Siebold (1771-1849) a doctor of honour – Dr. med h.c. – in midwifery (Entbindungskunst). She had studied obstetrics with her brother-in-law Adam Elias von Siebold (1775-1828), professor of obstetrics at Würzburg.

On March 26, 1817, her daughter Marianna Theodore Charlotte Heidenreich von Siebold (born Heiland von Siebold, 1788-1859) was created the first Doctor artis obstetrica with a dissertation on extrauterine pregnancy. Mother and daughter in Giessen were the first women in Germany to obtain a medical doctorate. The daughter's clientele was princely. She was present at the birth of princess Victoria, heir to the throne of United Kingdom ("we are not amused"), as well as the birth of Prince Albert von Coburg. These two later married and are a now remembered for "the Victorian era" and the Royal Albert Hall.

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