Paul Albert Grawitz
Biography of Paul Albert Grawitz
Paul Albert Grawitz studied in Halle and Berlin. While a student at the University of Berlin, he was an assistant to Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow (1821-1902) at the pathological institute and in the clinic headed by the famous surgeon Bernhard Rudolf Konrad von Langenbeck (1810-1887).
He received his doctorate in Berlin in 1873, was habilitated in 1874, and in 1875 became an assistant in Virchow's pathological institute. Grawitz stayed with Virchow from 1875 to 1886, when professor Grohe Friedrich Grohé (born 1830) at the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität in Greifswald became ill. Grawitz was appointed senior lecturer at Easter time 1886, and when professor Grohé died later that year, Grawitz was appointed to the chair of pathological anatomy and general pathology, as well as director of the pathological institute. He remained in those positions until he retired in 1921.
Grawitz’ initial work with Virchow concerned the possible movement of malignant cells. He then became interested in bacteriology succeeded in growing a fungus and a pathogen of favus and in infecting man with them from culture. This was before the day of Robert Koch’s (1843-1910) culture methods.
In a paper in 1892 he developed his theory of sleeping cells and the idea that mesenchymal cells can degenerate so that they lose their nucleus and become tissue fibrils and elastic fibres but on certain stimuli re-acquire nuclei and cell bodies, detach themselves from the union in fixed cells and become wandering cells again.
This was the manner in which he thought tissue leukocytes arose. These views have been proven incorrect, but they were the beginning of the ideas of tissue culture, and some of Grawitz’s experiments on transplantation and implantation of cornea and cardiac valve tissue show how in some ways he was ahead of his time.
Grawitz had a sarcastic sense of humour, but he was well liked by the students and his faculty colleagues both as a person and a teacher. He shunned scientific meetings and never went to a meeting of the German Pathological Society
In the medical community Grawits is associated with "his" tumour, but at the university of Greifswald he is best remembered for the fine pathological collection that he established. Virtually all of the pathological specimens were labelled by him personally, and he is said to have stated «if you want to have a good collection, you must devote about two hours a day to it.»