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Emil Ponfick

Born  1844
Died  1913

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German pathologist, born November 3, 1844, Frankfurt am Main; died November 3, 1913, Breslau.

Biography of Emil Ponfick

Emil Ponfick studied medicine in Tübingen, Freiburg and Heidelberg, where he obtained his doctorate in 1867. After a period of time as assistant to the famous Heidelberger surgeon Karl Otto Weber (1827-1767) he undertook pathological-anatomical studies with Friedrich Daniel von Recklinghausen (1833-1910) at Würzburg, and then in 1868 moved to the pathological institute in Berlin as assistant to Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), becoming 1st assistant in 1873. Whilst in Berlin he published on the pathology of the liver and spleen, as well as the blood and bone marrow, embolism of the mesenteric artery.

Ponfick was appointed ordinarius of pathology at Rostock in 1873, succeeding Theodor Ackermann (1825-1896). In 1875 he accompanied the grand duke of Mecklenburg on an expedition to Egypt, Nubia, Sinai, Cypros, and Constantinople.

In 1876 Ponfick moved to Göttingen, where he was appointed to a foundation chair of pathology, and there continued his work on haematological topics such as myelogenous leukaemia and haemaglobulinaemia. In 1878 he succeeded Julius Friedrich Cohnheim (1839-1884) in Breslau (Wroclav), where he became director if the pathological institute and from 1884 also Medicinalrath and member of the Provinzial-Medizinal-Kollegium, eventually becoming Geheimer Medicinalrath.

Ponfick remained in Breslau until his death. It was here that he established the identity of aspergillosis and the animal and human forms of acetinomycosis, writing a textbook on the subject in 1882. He also established that the ray fungus in man and cattle are identical, he made important contributions to myxoedema and published a large topographical atlas of medical/surgical diagnosis. He last work was “Bright Disease” which commanded his attention when one of his sons died of chronic renal disease. He managed to finish his monograph just before he died.


  • Über die pathologisch-anatomische Veränderungen bei tödtlich verlaufenden Erysipelen.
  • Anatomische Studien über den Typhus recurrens.
  • Experimentelle Beiträge zur Lehre von der Transfusion.
  • Über die Wandlungen des Lammblutes im menschlichen Organismus.
  • Über die plötzlichen Todesfälle nach schweren Verbrennungen.
  • Handbuch der Krankheiten des Chylopoetischen Apparates II. Die Krankheiten der Leber. Bearbeitet von E. Ponfick, Th. Thierfelder, O. Schüppel, O. Leichtenstern, A. Heller: 1878. X + 440 pages.
  • Ueber actinomykose. Berliner klinische Wochenschrift, 1880, 17: 660-661.
    Ponfick recognized the causative role of Actinomyces in human actinomycosis. He established the identity of the human and animal forms of the disease. He published a book on the subject in 1882.
  • Die Actinomykose des Menschen, eine neue Infectionskrankheit.
    Monograph, Berlin, 1882.
  • Über die Gemeingefährlichkeit des essbaren Morchel.
  • Experimentelle Beiträge zur Pathologie der Leber.
  • Über Recreations der Leber beim Menschen.
  • Über das Wesen der Krankheit und die Wege der Heilung.
    Rectoral address, 1892.
  • Über Metastasen und deren Heilung.
  • Über Fettnekrose des Pancreas.
  • Über die eitrigen Erkrankungen des Mittelohres im frühen Kindesalter.
  • Zur Lehre vom Myxoedem.
  • Über Placenta praevia caervicalis.
  • Myxoedem und Hypophysis.
  • Topographischer Atlas der medizinisch-chirurgischen Diagmostik. Jena, 1901.
  • Pathologisch-anatomisches Institut. Festschrift zur Feier des 100jährigen Bestehens der Universität Breslau. Edited by Eduard Kaufmann. Teil 2. Breslau 1911.
  • Das pathologisch-anatomische Institut. Gesundheits- und Wohlfahrtspflege der Königlichen Haupt- und Residenzstadt Breslau.
    Festschrift. Edited by Magistrat der Königlichen Haupt- und Residenzstadt Breslau. Breslau 1912.
  • Untersuchungen über die exsudative Nierenentzündung. Text and atlas. Jena, 1914.
  • Eduard Kaufmann:
    Emil Ponfick. Münchener medizinische Wochenschrift, 1913, 60: 2843-2844.
We thank Rudolf Kleinert, Bad Reichenhall, Germany, for information submitted.

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