Autograph Letter Signed, in German on a government postcard, Kimberly, South Africa, March 22, 1897. ROBERT KOCH.
Autograph Letter Signed, in German on a government postcard, Kimberly, South Africa, March 22, 1897.
ROBERT KOCH

(1843-1910) German physician and biologist considered the founder of the field of bacteriology; awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1905 for his work on tuberculosis and recognized for isolating the anthrax bacillus in 1877 as well as for work on cholera and malaria.

Autograph Letter Signed, in German on a government postcard, Kimberly, South Africa, March 22, 1897.

Koch went to South Africa to assist in fighting the spread of rinderpest which had ravaged cattle stocks across Africa in the 1890s. He stayed for 3 months between 1896-7, at Kimberley, Cape Colony. Koch had concluded his work on cattle plague and left Kimberly on the day he wrote our letter. He writes to the Director of the Royal Health Authority Councilor Kohler in Berlin. In full, "I was lucky to get last minute tickets for passage on the German East Africa line's "Admiral," and I will depart from Durban on March 28. I will take the liberty to send you cards along the way from each of the countries we have to pass, in accordance with your request. Unfortunately, they do not have picture postcards yet, culture has not reached them yet...." Signed, "R. Koch." Some water staining on right margin text but words remain easily readable.

The rinderpest epidemic seriously affected the Transvaal and Northern Cape particularly, bringing socioeconomic disaster to President Kruger's Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek. The disease, attributed to imported cattle, was highly contagious, but Koch found that an inoculation of bile from an infected animal safeguarded the rest of the herd. Koch propounded the theory that "one germ causes one disease- every disease has its specific germ." Although he could not isolate the specific pathogen, he developed an effective vaccine against rinderpest in February 1897 and stemmed the spread of the cattle plague. It reappeared about a century later. Koch received the Nobel Prize for his work in 1905.

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