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Jacob von Heine

Born  1800
Died  1879

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German orthopaedist, born April 16. 1800, Lauterbach in Schwarzwald; died November 12, 1879, Cannstatt am Neckar.

Biography of Jacob von Heine

Jacob von Heine in 1840 was the first to recognise poliomyelitis as a clinical disease entity. He separated the disease from other forms of paralysis and termed it infantile spinal paralysis. The disease was sometimes called Heine-Medin's disease before it became generally known as poliomyelitis. He wrote a monograph on congenital and acquired dislocation, and was also the first to describe spastic paraplegia, also in 1840.

Heine was born to a family with a long tradition of bonesetting. The nephew of Johann Georg Heine (1770-1838), the famous maker of various instruments; cousin of Joseph von Heine (1803-1877) and Bernhard Heine (1800-1877), famous mechanic, orthopaedist and physiologist.

He began preparing for his studies at the age of 21, studying classical languages in order to visit one more Gymnasium, and two years later - in 1823 - came to his uncle Johann Georg Heine, who owned a famous orthopaedic institute and was held in high esteem in the university circles in Würzburg. At first he was mostly drawn to Catholic theology, but through the influence of his uncle he turned to medicine. He stayed for five and a half year in Würzburg, spending four of them working at his uncle's clinic. He obtained his doctorate in 1827. For the next one and a half year he remained in Würzburg for further education, working besides his orthopaedic activities, at the department of medicine and surgery at the city hospital - the Juliusspital - being assistant under Johann Lukas Schönlein (1793-1864) and Kajetan von Textor (1782-1860), and for one year undertook all the body openings at the hospital.

After delivering his inauguration thesis he left Würzburg in 1829, and passed the examination in Württemberg. At this time his reputation was so great that the government that year entrusted him with organising an orthopaedic institution in Cannstatt, which under his directorship became a great success, attracting patients from all over Europe.

Heine brought his surgical skills to the methods of treatment in orthopaedics, most important of them the sesection of the Achilles tendon, but also practised a host of other treatments. He introduced remedial gymnastics to Germany, introduced swimming for therapeutical purposes and was familiar with the effects of mud baths.

His work left little time for publishing; some of his publications concern paralytical manifestations of various causes or corrective apparatuses devised by him. In 1865 he resigned from his institution, retiring, as his son had chosen to devote himself to the natural sciences, rather than taking over his father's practice. The son, however, died in 1877, two years prior to the death of his father.

Jacob von Heine was honorary citizen of Cannstatt am Neckar, and from the government was conferred the titles of Court counsellor and Privy counsellor, and was raised to the nobility with the Württembergian Order of the Crown – the Kronenorden.


  • Ueber die Unterbindung der Arteria subclavica.
    Inaugural thesis, Würzburg, 1829.
  • Beobachtungen über Lähmungszustände der untern Extremitäten und deren Behandlung.
    Stuttgart, Köhler, 1840. 2nd. edition under the title of: Spinale Kinderlähmung. Stuttgart, 1860.
  • Kurzer Bericht über die 25jährige Wirksamkeit der orthopädischen Heilanstalt bei Cannstatt u.s.w. 1854.
  • Ueber spontane und congenitale Luxationen, sowie über einen neuen Schenkelhalsbruch-Apparat. 1842. Obituaries and biographical:
  • E. Bürger:
    Jacob von Heine, der Entdecker der spinalen Kinderlähmung. Lebensskizze und Darstellung seiner Lehre.
    With picture. Bonn, 1911.
  • Schwäbische Chronik des Schwäbischen Merkurs 2, abteilung, 1880, page 45.
  • Correspondenz-Blatt des Württembergischen ärztlichen Vereins, 1880, 3.
  • E. Gurlt in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, XI, page 351.

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