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Richard Julius Petri

Born  1852
Died  1921

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German bacteriologist, born May 31, 1852, Barmen; died December 20, 1921, Zeitz.

Biography of Richard Julius Petri

Richard Julius Petri studied as an apprentice in the Kaiser Wilhelm-Akademie for military physicians from 1871 to 1875 and then served as a subordinate physician at the Berlin Charité. He received his doctorate in 1876 and until 1882 actively served as a military physician, then in the reserve, and eventually as Oberstabsarzt.

From 1877 to 1879 he was assigned to the Kaiserliches Gesundheitsamt where he was assistant to Robert Koch. From 1882 to 1885 head of the Göbersdorf sanatorium, administered by the Imperial Board of Health. A Prussian disciplinarian, he ran the tuberculosis sanatorium on strictly disciplinary lines for both staff and patients. Prior to his appointment he had developed a technique for cloning bacterial strains using an agar slope and sub-culturing onto his dish, recognizing different bacterial colonies and again sub-culturing.

In 1886 Petri became Kustos in the Museum of Hygiene in Berlin, from 1889 Regierungsrat and full member of the Kaiserliches Gesundheitsamt, from which he retired in 1900 with the title of Geheimer Regierungsrat (privy councellor).

He was in his later days a rather vain, overweight man, who dressed in the uniform of chief army doctor whenever the opportunity presented itself. The sash around his protuberant abdomen reminded one observer of the equator around the globe.


  • Katalog für das Hygiene-Museum. 1886.
  • Der Cholerakurs im Kaiserlichen Hesundheitsamt. Berlin, 1893.
  • Das Mikroskop. Von seinen Anfängen bis zur jetzigen Vervollkommnung. 1896. Petri also contributed 86 papers in Dammer’s Handwörterbuch der Gesundheitspflege, as well as some 60 treatises on hygiene and bacteriology, and journal articles and reports in the Mittheilungen aus dem Kaiserlichen Gesundsheitsamte. These are some of them:
  • Versuche zur Chemie des Eiweissharns. 1876.
  • Apparat zur Bestimmung des Wassergehalts in der Milch durch Destillation im Vacuum.
  • Die Gefärhlichkeit der Carbon-Natron-Oefen. 1889.
  • Gewerbehygiene. 1890.
  • Versuche, über die Verbreitung ansteckender Krankheiten, insbesondere der Tuberkulose, durch den Eisenbahnverkehr und über die dagegen zu ergreifenden Massnahmen. 1893.
  • Zur Beurtheilung der Hochdruck-Pasteurisir-Apparate. 1897.
  • Zum Nachweis in Butter und Milch. 1897.

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