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Heinrich Köbner

Born 1838
Died 1904

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German dermatologist, born December 2, 1838, Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland); died September 3, 1904, Berlin.

Biography of Heinrich Köbner

Heinrich Köbner was one of the outstanding dermatologists of the nineteenth century. He studied in Berlin from 1855 to 1859 and obtained his medical doctorate at Breslau in 1859. After hospital service in Vienna with Ferdinand von Hebra (1816-1880) and Paris with Alfred Hardy (1811-1893) he settled in Breslau where he initiated the first policlinic for syphilis and diseases of the skin in 1861.

Köbner received his venia docendi (habilitation) at the University of Breslau in 1869 and in 1872 was appointed to the newly established chair. In 1876 he also became director of the university policlinic for diseases of the skin and syphilis which had been established at his initiative. However, due to health problems, he was forced to make a sustained stay at southern health resorts and to lay down his positions. He then moved to Berlin where in 1884 he built a new policlinic at which ha gave courses for physicians.

His initial observations and studies of the phenomenon that bears his name resulted from having seen patients who had developed psoriasis at sites of excoriations, horse bites, and tattoos. He presented the phenomenon at a meeting of the Silesian Society for National Culture in 1872.

With a flair for the dramatic Köbner always attracted an interested audience and is reported to have demonstrated various skin infections resulting from self inoculation from patient's skin to his forearms and chest. During his lecture demonstrations he exposed various parts of his anatomy to convince his audience. His main interests were in tuberculosis, syphilis, and leprosy. He was succeeded by Oscar Simon (1845-1882) with whom Neisser trained and who in turn succeeded him when Simon died with carcinoma of the stomach in 1882. Neisser was then 27 years old.

In 1893 Heinrich Köbner was elected member of the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina. In 1897 he was appointed Geheimer Medicinalrat.

We thank Karsten Lund-Pedersen, Denmark; and Professor Dr. Christoph Hoeller, Vienna, for information submitted.

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