Robert Koch

Robert Koch searching for the Rinderpest pathogen, Kimberly, South Africa, 1896. Author Unknown. Public domain via wikimedia commons.

If the importance of a disease for mankind is measured by the number of fatalities it causes, then tuberculosis must be considered much more important than those most feared infectious diseases, plague, cholera and the like. One in seven of all human beings dies from tuberculosis.

Robert Koch, address to the Berlin Physiological Society, 24th March 1882.

In 1882 Robert Koch, a German physician and one of the founders of bacteriology, discovered the bacillus that caused tuberculosis. The sanatorium movement began shortly afterward in Europe, and soon spread to the United States, bringing attention to the plight of afflicted individuals, and catalyzing public health action.

In 1891 Koch founded the Royal Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases, heading the organization until his death in 1910. Renamed the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in 1942 it has become the German government’s central scientific institution in the field of biomedicine and is one of the most important bodies for the safeguarding of public health in Germany.

Focusing on public health the RKI is one of the oldest institutions of its kind worldwide.

Covid-19 in Germany. Source: RKI Public domain.