Ferdinand Ritter von Hebra

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Ferdinand Ritter von Hebra
Ferdinand Ritter von Hebra (1816-1880).jpg
Ferdinand Ritter von Hebra
Born7 September 1816
Brno, Moravia, then part of the Austrian Empire, now the Czech Republic
Died5 August 1880 (1880-08-06) (aged 63)
NationalityAustrian, (Austro-Hungarian)
Known forVienna School of Dermatology
Scientific career
InfluencesCarl Freiherr von Rokitansky

Ferdinand Karl Franz Schwarzmann, Ritter von Hebra[a] (7 September 1816, in Brno, Moravia – 5 August 1880 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary) was an Austrian physician and dermatologist known as the founder of the New Vienna School of Dermatology, an important group of physicians who established the foundations of modern dermatology.[1][2]


Ferdinand Schwarzmann von Hebra was born to a military officer. He first studied in Graz, then entered the University of Vienna and graduated in medicine in 1841.[2] He was influenced by Carl Freiherr von Rokitansky, one of the founders of modern pathological anatomy.[3]

While still a young man, Hebra wrote one of the most influential books on dermatology of all times, the Atlas der Hautkrankeiten (Atlas of skin diseases), with phenomenal illustrations by two of the leading medical illustrators of Austria, Anton Elfinger (1821–1864) and Carl Heitzmann (1836–1896).

In 1844 Ferdinand von Hebra discovered the cause of scabies.[4]

In the second half of the 19th century, Hebra introduced resurfacing and restoring skin with chemical peel. He used exfoliative agents, like phenol, croton oil, nitric acid in various cautious combination for treating freckles and skin irregularities.[5] He greatly influenced Carl Mayrhofer, who continued Semmelweis's research on puerperal fever.[6]

Semmelweis and Hebra[edit]

An early supporter of Ignaz Semmelweis and the editor of a leading Austrian medical journal, Hebra announced Semmelweis's discovery that handwashing with chloride of lime reduces the incidence of puerperal fever in the December 1847 and April 1848 issues of the Viennese medical journal. Hebra claimed that Semmelweis's work had a practical significance comparable to that of Edward Jenner's introduction of cowpox inoculations to prevent smallpox.[7]

Hebra was the only friend who kept in touch with Semmelweis after his departure from Vienna.[7]

Due to Semmelweis's suffering from severe depression and other mental problems, János Balassa signed a document which committed him to a mental institution. On 30 July 1865 Hebra was one of the party who arranged Semmelweis’s fake trip to his “new water-cure hospital”, actually taking the long-time friend into a Viennese asylum for the insane located in the Lazarettgasse (Landes-Irren-Anstalt in der Lazarettgasse). On arrival there, Semmelweis guessed what was happening and tried to leave, but he was forcibly subdued by the asylum's guards and died two weeks later from a gangrenous wound which may have been caused by the struggle.[8][9]


  1. ^ Regarding personal names: Ritter is a title, translated approximately as Sir (denoting a Knight), not a first or middle name. There is no equivalent female form.


  1. ^ Morris 1897, p. 699.
  2. ^ a b Aniyathodiyil 2020.
  3. ^ Gortvay & Zoltan 1968, p. 27.
  4. ^ "Ferdinand Ritter von Hebra - Whonamedit - dictionary of medical eponyms". www.whonamedit.com. Retrieved 2018-03-23.
  5. ^ Nicolò Scuderi, Bryant A. Toth "International Textbook of Aesthetic Surgery (May 2016), p. 841-842
  6. ^ Carter 1985, p. 37.
  7. ^ a b Gortvay & Zoltan 1968, p. 60.
  8. ^ Sinclair 1909, p. 268.
  9. ^ Carter, Abbott & Siebach 1995, pp. 263–264.


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