EK - Medicine

Geschichte der Gesellschaft der Ärzte in Wien seit 1838: als Geschichte der Medizin in Wien [History of the Society of Physicians in Vienna since 1838, Reflecting the History of Medicine in Vienna]. Karl Heinz Tragl. Wien [et al.]: Böhlau, 2011. 435 p. ill. 25 cm. ISBN 978-3-205-78512-5: EUR 49 [11-3]

Since 1800 the Gesellschaft der Ärzte in Wien has been dedicated to the continuing education of physicians. The Society was formally established on 22 December 1837 at the University of Vienna and held its inaugural convocation on 24 March 1838, attended by, among other notables, Minister of State Prince Klemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich. Vienna was by then a leading center of medical research, with the first “modern” clinic established in 1754 by Gerhard van Swieten, court physician to the empress Maria Theresia. The city’s First General Hospital [Erstes Allgemeines Krankenhaus] was established in 1784 and grew into a center for medical research.

Since 1919 the Society has been headquartered in the Billrothhaus, named for the 19thcentury pioneer surgeon Theodor Billroth. Its physicians and researchers counted among the world’s leaders in establishing such specialties as pharmacology, ophthalmology, otorhinolaryngology, stethoscopy diagnosis, obstetrics as a professional specialty, bacteriology, and medical hygiene (especially following Vienna’s catastrophic crisis in its inadequate and unhygienic municipal water system in 1852), and in furthering major advances in the fields of allergies, x-ray technology, local anesthesia, neurology, physiology, psychiatry, and others.

The First World War brought this Golden Age to an end. The interwar period and especially the Nazi takeover of Austria in 1938 brought deep setbacks to the Society and inflicted serious damage to Vienna’s medical reputation and scientific progress. Over 50 percent of the medical faculty, including all its Jewish members, were dismissed or driven out for racial or political reasons. In October 1938 the Society was dissolved and replaced by a puppet organization, whose journal Nazionalsozialismus und Medizin speaks for itself. The library also ceased to function. Following the end of Nazi rule, the Society was reestablished and rededicated to its original mission.

Karl Heinz Tragl provides a detailed history of the Society and of medicine in Vienna from the Society’s 1837 founding through the 19th and 20th centuries and into the 21st, devoting 40 pages to developments since 1987. The latter half of the book is devoted to indexes and bibliographies covering the Society’s journal publications and its library’s collections and services, and especially to the countless numbers of individuals associated with the Society throughout its history. Indexes include those of its honorary members and presidents, Billroth-Prizewinners, board members and administrators, and not least librarians as well as financial and other personnel. The work concludes with a chapter on the Society’s sister organizations in other countries, a 12-page bibliography (with unfortunately no primary sources) and a 109-page name index of some 2,500 persons. Tragl’s history contains a wealth of information and details and reads fluently. His work, alongside other relevant books like Ema Lesky’s Die Wiener Medizinische Schule im 19. Jahrhundert (Graz, 1965) and its English translation The Vienna Medical School of the 19th Century (Baltimore, 1976), is a valuable enrichment to the literature on the history of medicine. [da/ga]

Jüdische Medizin; Jüdisches in der Medizin; Medizin der Juden? [Jewish Medicine; The Jewish in Medicine; Medicine of the Jews?]. Ed. Caris-Petra Heidel. Frankfurt am Main: Mabuse-Verlag, 2011. 310 p. ill. 21 cm. (Schriftenreihe Medizin und Judentum, 10). ISBN 978-3-940529-85-5: EUR 40 [11-4]

In the Middle Ages the Jewish physician was sought after as the best in the profession and served often as personal physician to emperors, popes, or bishops. His knowledge came from a combination of competencies, theoretical knowledge, and a thorough grounding in Arabic medicine. By the 18th century Jewish physicians played a leading role in the development of modern medicine (see for example, Die Geschichte der Gesellschaft der Ärzte in WienRREA 17:172). The Nazis’ persecution and expulsion of Jews from medicine thus caused serious setbacks to Europe’s medical progress and care of patients.

The work under review is a collection of lectures given at the 10th medical-history colloquium “Medizin und Judentum” [Medicine and Jews], held in 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey. The meeting’s goal was to study the Jews’ role in medicine, especially as innovators, from the period of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires to the middle of the 20th century. Significant attention is paid to Jewish medical professionals’ roles in improving hygiene, diet, drugs, dentistry, and the treatment of patients from lower social classes. The volume includes 20 German and five English-language articles.

In recent years several German medical associations have been reviewing their own histories during the Nazi period and have published works commemorating their expelled colleagues, for example Jüdische Kinderärzte 1933-1945 [Jewish Pediatricians, 1933-1945- -see RREA 13:260]. Six books on the fates of Jewish physicians and dentists in Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, Stuttgart, and Saxony were reviewed in RREA 15/16:226-231.

In Jüdische Medizin, several important personages are studied, from Isaak ben Salomon Israeli at the turn of the 9th to the 10th century in Cairo to Erich Frank, Werner Adam Laqueur, and Friedrich Reimann, who made notable contributions to medicine in Istanbul in the 20th century. It is particularly moving to read about the fates of the many Jewish physicians driven from Nazi Germany. For example, dermatologist Felix Aaron Theilhaber wrote on the importance of healthy living, as well as on birth control, homosexuality, and the legalization of abortion. In 1930 in Berlin he founded the first clinic for birth control and sex education. Ernst Weiss was an Austrian physician and writer, especially of psychological novels, and counted among his friends Franz Kafka and Ödön von Horváth. Gynecologist Max Hirsch was a leading advocate of holistic women’s medicine and an advocate for women’s health and safety. Pathologist Philipp Schwartz left Germany for Zürich in 1933 and from there recruited a number of German professors who were to be influential in the reform of higher education in Turkey.

These 25 articles draw extensively on Arabic, Hebrew, and Turkish sources and provide a wealth of explanatory references, documents, and photographs. This work is a valuable contribution to the professional literature and is also of great interest for educated readers in general. [da/ga]

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