What Did Rudolf Virchow Discover?

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Rudolf Virchow’s most well-known accomplishment is his theory that cells are created from the division of cells, described as “every cell originates from another existing cell like it.” He discovered many things related to cellular theory, pathology and social medicine. He also was the first to recognize and describe leukemia.

With his observation in 1855 that only certain cells or groups of cells got sick rather than the whole organism, Virchow launched the field of cellular pathology and advanced the practice of medicine. He is often called the Father of Pathology.

He was the first person to explain the mechanism of pulmonary thromboembolism, identifying both thrombosis and embolism for the first time. Other discoveries include finding cells in bone and connective tissue and describing substances such as myelin.

He created the field of comparative pathology, noting the link between diseases of humans and animals. He coined the term “zoonosis” to indicate the infectious diseases links between animal and human health.

Virchow was an advocate for social medicine and public health, explaining how social and economic health could improve physical health and reduce the occurrence of disease. His investigation of the cause of a typhus outbreak led to a scathing report against the Prussian government.