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Georg Arthur Läwen

Born 1876-02-06
Died 1958-01-30

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German surgeon, born February 6, 1876, Waldheim in Sachsen; died January 30, 1958, Lüneburg.

Biography of Georg Arthur Läwen

Georg Arthur Läwen was the son of Gustav Adolf Läwen, an administrative official, and his wife Ernestine Clara, Née Guth. From 1895 to 1900 he studied medicine in Rostock, Freiburg im Breisgau, Munich and Leipzig. He received his license to practice in 1900 and was conferred doctor of medicine with a dissertation on bacteriology.

 He subsequently started working in the Dikonissenkrankenhaus Leipzig, the teaching hospital of the University of Leipzig, headed by the Privatdozent Heinrich Braun (1862-1934. Here he received a surgical training which he continued from 1904 to 1911 in the university surgical clinic which was headed by Friedrich Trendelenburg (1844-1924). In 1908 he was habilitated and became physician-in-chief for surgery at the Sankt Georg Hospital in Leipzig. Also in 1908 he married Kathrine Hubert, with whom he had five children.

 During World War I he was a medical officer and then returned to the Sankt Georg Hospital. In 1919 he accepted an invitation to the chair of surgery at the University of Marburg, in 1928 moving on to the chair of surgery at the University of Königsberg, remaining in that position until 1945.

 During World War II he was a consulting surgeon to the army at several war theatres and conducted operations in many field hospitals. In 1939 he was wounded by a shot through his right hand. 11941 to 1943 Läwen was president of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Chirurgie and as such presided over the society’s last congress during the war, in Dresden.

 In November 1944 his wife had settled on the estate Severloh in the Celle district. On January 1945 Läwen left Königsberg on a hospital ship, subsequently working in field hospitals until he arrived in Severloh in early 1946. In 1948 the family moved to Hermannsburg, Landkreis Celle. In the early 1950s it was evident that he suffered from dementia, and in 1958 he died in a nursing home in Lüneburg.

 His most outstanding works are his contributions to local anaesthesia, and his brilliant suggestion to use curare, the prototype of muscle relaxants, in operations. After cocaine was introduced as a local anaesthetic in 1884, there were many attempts to find a less toxic substance. A result of this research was Novocain. It was reported by Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Braun (1862-1934) in 1905 and that year marketed by Farbwerke Hoechst AG. It remained the standard local anaesthetic for decades. Braun became head of surgery at the Diakonissenhaus in Leipzig in 1899, and from 1900 both Läwen and Braun did research on local anaesthetics. In Leipzig Läwen also visited the pharmacological institute of Rudolf Boehm (Rudolph Albert Martin Boehm, 1844-1926), where both basic experimental research and clinical investigations were conducted. In 1907 Läwen compared the effects of Procain, Cocain and other local anaesthetics on isolated Nervus ischiadicus of the frog.

 In 1920 Läwen became a member of the Gesellschaft zur Förderung der gesamten Naturwissenschaften in Marburg, in 1940 member of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina, in 1948 member of honour of the Vereinigung Niederrheinisch-westfälischer Chirurgen, and 1950 member of honour of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Chirurgie and the Gesellschaft der Chirurgen Wiens.

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