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Karel Frederik Wenckebach

Born  1864
Died  1940

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Dutch-born Austrian internist, born March 24, 1864, Den Haag; died November 11, 1940, Vienna.

Biography of Karel Frederik Wenckebach

Karel Frederik Wenckebach attended the University of Utrecht and received his doctorate in 1888. He spent his assistant period at the institutes of zoology, and for pathological and normal anatomy in Utrecht. In 1901 he was appointed professor of internal medicine at Groningen, held the same tenure at Strassburg 1911-1914, and then followed a call to Vienna, where he retired from his chair in 1929.

Wenckeback’s early work concerned embryology, later he concentrated his efforts in the study of the pathology and clinics of heart and circulatory diseases.

Apart from his well known phenomenon, he wrote one of the first descriptions of the beneficial effects of the quinine alkaloids on arrhythmias and that its successful use was mainly in patients with auricular fibrillation or recent onset (1903-1904). He wrote an important monograph on beriberi in 1934.

    "I owe my reputation to the fact that I use digitalis in doses the text books say are dangerous and in cases that the text book say are unsuitable."
    Quoted in Lancet, 1937, 2: 633.


  • Experiment en kliniek. Groningen, 1901.
  • Die Arhythmie als Ausdruck bestimmter Funktionsstörungen des Herzens. Eine physiologisch-klinische Studie. Leipzig, 1903. 193 pages.
  • Beiträge zur Kenntniss der menschlichen Herztätigkeit.
    3 parts published 1906-1908 in: Archiv für Physiologie (the physiological part of Archiv für Anatomie und Physiologie".
    1906: 2297-354–––1907: 1-24–––1908, supplementary volume: 53-86.
  • Die unregelmässige Herztätigkeit und ihre klinische Bedeutung.
    Leipzig and Berlin, W. Engelmann, 1914.
    The second edition, written in co-operation with Heinrich Winterberg (1867-1929), was expanded to two volumes. Leipzig, Engelmann, 1927.
  • Über den Mann von 50 Jahren. 1915.
  • Angina pectoris. 1926.
  • Unregelmässige Herztätigkeit.
    With Heinrich Winterberg (1867-1929). Leipzig, 1927.
  • Herz und Kreislauf bei der Beriberi-Krankheit.
    With W. C. Aalsmer. Berlin and Vienna, 1929.
  • Herz- und Kreislaufinsuffiziens.
    Medizinische Praxis, volume 12, Dresden-Leipzig, 1931; 2nd edition 1932.
  • Das Beriberi-Herz. Berlin, J. Springer, 1934.
  • W.B. Fye:
    Karel Frederik Wenckebach, 1864-1940. Clinical Cardiology, 1990, 13(2): 146-148.
  • J. Cooper, H.J.L. Marriott:
    To Wenckebach: A centenary salute.
    Texas Heart Institute Journal, Houston, 1999, 26: 8–11 With Wilhelm Falta (1875–) he was the publisher of Wiener Archiv für innere Medizin.
We thank Rudolf Kleinert, Bad Reichenhall, Germany, for information submitted.

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