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Johann Heinrich Ferdinand von Autenrieth

Born 1772
Died 1835

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German physician, born October 20, 1772, Stuttgart; died May 2, 1835.

Biography of Johann Heinrich Ferdinand von Autenrieth

Johann Herrmann Ferdinand von Autenrieth was the son of the Würtembergian civil servant Jakob Friedrich Authenrieth. He received his first education at the Gymnasium in Stuttgart and, in 1885, aged only thirteen, attended lectures on natural sciences and medicine at the Karls-Akademie in Stuttgart where his father was professor of Cameralwissenschaften. He became a member of the recent circle of natural scientists, headed by baron Georges Cuvier (1769-1832). He was conferred doctor of medicine at the academy in 1792, and then immediately went on a scientific journey, attending lectures by Antonio Scarpa (1752-1832) and Johann Peter Frank (1745-1821) in Pavia, continuing by way of Trieste and Vienna to Hungary. In 1894 he returned to Stuttgart, publishing on the medical school of Pavia, the mines at Schemnitz in Hungary, and his travel experiences.

In 1794 Autenrieth accompanied his father on a journey by Hamburg to Baltimore. He practiced medicine for half a year in Lancaster, and there happily survived a bout of yellow fever. In Baltimore he wrote a letter to Christoph Heinrich Pfaff (1773-1852) on the anatomy of the dolphin. In 1797 appeared by him and Leibmedicus Philipp Friedrich Hopfengärtner (1771-1897) in Stuttgart, a translation of Benjamin Rush’s (1746-1745) book on the yellow fever in Philadelphia in 1793.

After one-and-a-half year of absence he returned to Stuttgart where he received the title of Hofmedicus, became inspector of the zoological part of the Naturalienkabinett of the grand duke and, in the autumn of 1796, occasioned by the then ravaging rinderpest, became a member of the Sanitäts-Commission, instituted for this purpose, to work out public measures against the rinderpest (cattle plague). In 1796 he taught a colleague privatim on the origins of natural history and chemistry. The following year he was appointed full professor of anatomy, physiology, surgery and obstetrics at the University of Tübingen, where he was also entrusted the Clinicum.

During the first eight years of his tenure he taught, besides anatomy and physiology, surgery, gave operative courses, taught dressings and obstetrics, and until 1813 was Medicinal-Visitator to the upper regions of his country. When a new clinic was opened in 1805, he passed the teaching of surgery on to the newly appointed professor of these disciplines, Hiller. In this period Autenrieth excelled as a teacher of comparative anatomy and general medicine.

From 1805 to 1811 Autenrieth headed the medical clinic and, besides anatomy and physiology, also taught nosology. After 1811 he abandoned anatomy and physiology to concentrate his efforts in general pathology and therapy, as well as forensic medicine and Medicinal-Polizei.

In 1806 the German lyric poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843) was admitted to Autenrieth's psychiatric clinic, thus escaping arrest accusations of participating in a Jacobin plot with his devoted friend Isaak von Sinclair.
As a clinician Autenrieth distinguished himself through his ability to elucidate complicated cases. His main contribution may have been that he abandoned fruitless theorizing for clinical observations and a physiological approach.

Following the death of Wilhelm Gottfried Plouquet (1744-1814) Autenrieth was the busiest physician in Tübingen; people from Germany and abroad sought his advice. During the last ten years of his life he gave consultations, but without really practicing medicine.

Autenrieth particularly distinguished himself as a teacher of forensic medicine, a field in which his broad knowledge of anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and obstetrics proved itself fully. He headed the Medicinalwesen for a large part of Württemberg and gave numerous expert opinions for the courts. He played an important part in the reorganization of the entire Württemberg health system.

Autenrieth rejected several academic tenures but received many honours, in 1812 the Civil-Verdienstorden, in 1818 the Order of the Württemberg Crown. Following the retirement of chancellor Schnurrer in 1819, Autenrieth, while keeping his professorship, became vice-chancellor, in 1822 chancellor of the university.

As chancellor of the university Autenrieth was a member of the Ständeversammlung, causing many interruptions in his teaching duties. He thus left this work to his son Hermann Friedrich Autenrieth (1799-1874), who became a distinguished physician in his own right.

Autenerieth by many was considered the foremost German clinician in the first third of the nineteenth century.

With Johann Christian Reil (1759-1813) Autenrieth also published in the Archiv für Physiologie, (1807, volume VII; 1809, volume IX).

From 1815-1817, with J. G. F. von Bohrenberger, Autenrieth published the journal Tübinger Blätter für Naturwissenschaften und Arzneikunde.

His paper on the medical school of Pavia was published in Baldinger’s Neues Magazin, 1794, volume XVI.

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