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Gustav Albert Schwalbe

Born 1844-08-01
Died 1916-04-23

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German anatomist and anthropologist, born August 1, 1844, Quedlinburg; died April 23, 1916, Strassburg.

Biography of Gustav Albert Schwalbe

Gustav Albert Schwalbe was the son of a physician. He attended the universities of Berlin, Zurich and Bonn, obtained his doctorate at Berlin in 1866 and subsequently went to Max J. Schultze (1825-1874) in Bonn, where he discovered the taste buds. In 1868 he became assistant at the physiological institute in Amsterdam with Willy Kühne (1837-1900), in 1870 he was habilitated as Privatdozent for anatomy at Halle an der Saale.

Following promotion to doctor he was a subordinate physician at the military hospital (stehendes Kriegslazarett) in Reichenberg in Bohemia. He was also a court counsellor and privy medical councel. Durig the Franco-Prussian war he was an assistant physician in the 7. Kürassier-Regiment

In 1871, after the war, he came to the University of Freiburg im Breisgau as Privatdozent and prosector to Johan Alexander Ecker (1816-1887). Already in the autumn of that year, however, he was called to Leipzig as professor extraordinary of histology, and in 1873 succeeded Carl Gegenbaur (1826-1903) as ordentlicher Professor of anatomy at Jena. In 1881 he was called to Königsberg as ordinarius and director of the anatomical institute, and in 1883 to Strassburg, where he held the same positions until 1914.

In 1869 Schwalbe injected Berlin-blue dye into the subarachnoid space of a dog, and was the first to demonstrate that the major pathways to absorb cerebrospinal fluid were lymphatic pathways. The subarachnoid or subdural spaces between the internal and external sheaths of the optic nerve are now referred to as Schwalbe's spaces; also called the intervaginal spaces of optic nerve (spatia intervaginalia nervi optici). His name is lent to several other anatomical structures, including Schwalbe's nucleus or the vestibular nucleus, Schwalbe's ring, which is a circular ridge consisting of collagenous fibers surrounding the outer margin of Descemet's membrane, and Schwalbe's line, an anatomical line located on the posterior surface of the eye's cornea.

Schwalbe is remembered for his anthropological research of primitive man. He considered the Neanderthal to be a direct ancestor of modern humans. He also wrote an influential treatise on Java Man, which had been a recent discovery by Eugène Dubois (1858-1940).

Schwalbe was a member of honour of the Anthropological Societies of Rome, Brussels and Vienna.

We thank William Charles Caccamise Sr, MD, for information submitted.

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