Gerhard Armauer Hansen

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Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen
Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen.jpg
Gerhard Armauer Hansen
Born (1841-07-29)29 July 1841
Bergen, Norway
Died 12 February 1912(1912-02-12) (aged 70)
Florø, Norway
Fields Epidemiology
Alma mater University of Oslo
Notable awards Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav

Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen (29 July 1841 – 12 February 1912) was a Norwegian physician, remembered for his identification of the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae in 1873 as the causative agent of leprosy.[1][2]


Hansen was born in Bergen and studied medicine at the Royal Frederik's University (now the University of Oslo), gaining his degree in 1866. He served a brief internship at the National Hospital in Christiania (Oslo) and as a doctor in Lofoten. In 1868 Hansen returned to Bergen to study leprosy while working with Daniel Cornelius Danielssen, a noted expert.

Leprosy was regarded as largely hereditary or otherwise miasmic in origin. Hansen concluded on the basis of epidemiological studies that leprosy was a specific disease with a specific cause.[3] In 1870–71 Hansen travelled to Bonn and Vienna to gain the training necessary for him to prove his hypothesis.[4] In 1873, he announced the discovery of Mycobacterium leprae in the tissues of all sufferers, although he did not identify them as bacteria, and received little support.[4] The discovery was done with a "new and better" microscope.[5]

In 1879 he gave tissue samples to Albert Neisser who successfully stained the bacteria and announced his findings in 1880, claiming to have discovered the disease causing organism. There was some quarreling between Neisser and Hansen, Hansen as discoverer of the bacillus and Neisser as identifier of it as the etiological agent. Neisser put in some effort to downplay the assistance of Hansen. Hansen's claim was injured by his failure to produce a pure microbiological culture in an artificial medium or to prove that the rod-shaped organisms were infectious. Further Hansen had attempted to infect at least one female patient without consent[citation needed] and although no damage was caused, that case ended in court and Hansen lost his post at the hospital.

Hansen remained medical officer for leprosy in Norway and it was through his efforts that the leprosy acts of 1877 and 1885 were passed, leading to a steady decline of the disease in Norway from 1,800 known cases in 1875 to just 575 cases in 1901. His distinguished work was recognized at the International Leprosy Congress held at Bergen in 1909.

"Armauer Hansen was born in this house", Kroken street, Bergen.

Hansen had suffered from syphilis since the 1860s but died of heart disease.


In Bergen, a medical museum that is often referred to as the Leprosy Museum, has been dedicated to Hansen. The University of Bergen has dedicated a research facility to him—Armauer Hansen Building—located at Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen.

In Jerusalem, a 19th-century leprosarium has borne Hansen's name since 1950. It has been reconstructed into an art center while preserving the physician's surname in its title.[6]


  1. ^ Hansen GHA (1874). "Undersøgelser Angående Spedalskhedens Årsager (Investigations concerning the etiology of leprosy)". Norsk Mag. Laegervidenskaben (in Norwegian) 4: 1–88. 
  2. ^ Irgens L (2002). "The discovery of the leprosy bacillus". Tidsskr nor Laegeforen 122 (7): 708–9. PMID 11998735. 
  3. ^ Irgens L; Rabson, S. M. (1984). "The discovery of Mycobacterium leprae. A medical achievement in the light of evolving scientific methods". Am J Dermatopathol 6 (4): 337–43. doi:10.1097/00000372-198408000-00008. PMID 6388392. 
  4. ^ a b "Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen". Retrieved 22 March 2007. 
  5. ^ Bergenseren som løste lepra-gåten. 16 September 2012
  6. ^ The Hansen Compound: From Leper Hospital to Multimedia Art Center. 31 May 2013