History of Berlin Anatomy 1713 - 1883

At a glance:


Foundation of Berlin's Theatrum Anatomicum. Its main purpose is the improved eduation of military surgeons.

"Das neu aufgerichtete Theatrum Anathomicum wurde diese Woche zum erstenmahl eingeweyhet und haben Seine Königliche Majestät Dero Cammer-Laquayen, welcher an der Schwindsucht gestorben, darauf zum ersten mahl seciren laßen. (...) und zweifelt man nicht, daß diese sehr löbl. Anstalt sehr großen Nutzen mit der Zeit schaffen werde." [The new Theatrum was inaugurated ... His Royal Majesty had a lackay dissected who had died of consumption ...] Newspaper report, 2nd December 1713

The Anatomical Theatre was located in the Northwest tower of the Royal Stables, at the junction of Charlottenstraße and Dorotheenstraße - on the ground of today's Staatsbibliothek (State Library) on the street Unter den Linden. (View from the North.)

In 1713, Christian Maximilian Spener (1678-1714) is made the first professor of the Anatomical Theatre by King Friedrich Wilhelm I., the "Soldier King".

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Augustin Buddeus (1696–1752, Professor from 1723) announces an anatomical dissection course with regular weekly hours.
This is the start of regular hands-on dissection courses for students in Berlin - until 1726, education was by demonstrations and lectures only.

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Johann Friedrich Meckel the Elder (1714–1774)becomes professor of the Collegium medico-chirurgicum. The Collegium was inaugurated in 1723 as an expansion of the Anatomical Theatre and was a predecessor of today's medical faculty.

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Johann Gottlieb Walter (1734-1818), the last professor of the Collegium medico-chirurgicum from 1773, sells his private anatomical collection to the state of Prussia. This collection was the basis of the anatomical collection of the Institute of Anatomy of Berlin University.

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The year of the foundation of Berlin University. The first chair of anatomy is Karl Asmund Rudolphi (1771-1832).

The anatomical collection is transfered to the west aisle of the University main building Unter den Linden.

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As the Royal Stables and the time-honoured Anatomical Theatre are in a ruinous state, the Anatomy department has to move into an adapted private building behind the Garnisonkirche (garrison church). Although meant to be a makeshift solution, this house remains the home of the department until 1865.

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Johannes Müller (1801-1858) becomes director of Berlin Anatomy.

Müller was at the same time the founder of a modern scientific physiology and the last "natural philosopher" of medicine. His approach to the organism was rather reverential. For him, the whole was often more important than the part an he refused to experiment on isolated parts of an organism.

As the leading physiologist of his time, he had many followers who laid the scientific foundations for modern medicine. Among his pupils were: von Helmholtz, Virchow, Brücke, DuBois-Reymond, Schwann, Haeckel, Remak, Henle, His, Reichert, Kölliker, Meissner. It was only after his death that his field was divided into three professorships: for anatomy (Reichert), physiology (DuBois-Reymond) and pathology (Virchow).

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Under the new director Karl Bogislaus Reichert (1811-1883), the Institute of Anatomy moves into the new building in the former gardens of the School of Veterinary Pharmacy. After several reconstructions, the building is still in use today.

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