Louis Lewin

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Louis Lewin (9 November 1850 – 1 December 1929) was a German pharmacologist. In 1887 he received his first sample of the Peyote cactus from Dallas, Texas-based physician Joseph Raleigh Briggs (1851-1907), and later published the first methodical analysis of it, causing a variant to be named Anhalonium lewinii in his honor.[1]

Lewin was born in Tuchel, West Prussia. He received his education at the gymnasium and the University of Berlin (M.D. 1876). The two years following his graduation he spent at Munich, in the laboratories of von Voit and Pettenkofer. Returning to Berlin in 1878, he became an assistant at the pharmacological institute of the university, and in 1881 he was admitted to the medical faculty as Privatdozent. In 1897 he was finally appointed professor.[2]

Louis Lewin's book "Die Nebenwirkungen der Arzneimittel" (1881) deals with the borderline between the pharmacological and the toxicological action of drugs with the untoward or side-effects of all kinds of medicaments.[3] It was the first book of its kind.[2] Another of his important books was "Phantastica" (1924),[4] which began an era of ethnobotany that continues to the present day.

Lewin mentioned in his book "Gifte und Vergiftungen" (1929) the causal connection between dental amalgam fillings and illness.[5] One of his famous patients were the well-known chemistry professor Alfred Stock (1876-1946), who suffered from mercury poisoning due to occupational exposure.[5] Lewin informed him also about mercury exposure from dental amalgams. In 1926 in an article in Zeitschrift für Angewandte Chemie (Journal of Applied Chemistry), Stock claimed that released mercury from amalgam fillings caused poisoning and demanded the consumption stopped.[6] This triggered a sharp and intense debate in Germany.[7]

Lewin died in Berlin, where a street and the nearby underground train station were named in honour of Louis Lewin.

Drug classification[edit]

One of Lewin's most enduring tasks was to create a system of classification of psychoactive drugs and plants based on their pharmacologic action. His original categories were:


Lewin was a prolific writer. Among his many essays may be mentioned:

  • "Über Morphium-Intoxication" -- On Morphium intoxication (in "Deutsche Zeitschrift für Praktische Medizin", 1874)
  • "Experimentelle Untersuchungen über die Wirkungen des Aconitin auf das Herz" -- Experimental analysis on the effects of Aconitine on the heart (in "Centralblatt für die Medizinische Wissenschaft", 1875)
  • "Über die Verwertung des Alkohols in fieberhaften Krankheiten" -- On the application of alcohol with feverish maladies (in "Deutsches Archiv für Klinische Medizin", 1876)
  • "Über maximale Dosen der Arzneimittel" -- On maximum doses of medicaments (in "Transactions of the International Medical Congress", 1887)
  • "Über allgemeine Hautvergiftung durch Petroleum" -- On the broad eczema caused by petroleum (in Rudolf Virchow's "Archiv,", 1888)
  • "Über Anhalonium Lewinii und andere Cacteen" -- On Anhalonium lewinii and other cacti (in "Archiv für Experimentelle Pathologie und Pharmakologie", 1894)
  • "Die Behandlung der Lepra" -- The treatment of leprosy (in "Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift", 1898)
  • "Die Untersuchungen von Blutflecken" -- Analysis of hemangioma (in "Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift", 1899)
  • "Die Vergiftungen in Betrieben" -- Intoxications at business (in "Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift", 1890)

Lewin is also the author of the following books:


  1. ^ www.druglibrary.org
  2. ^ a b Macht DI. Louis Lewin: pharmacologist, toxicologist, medical historian. Ann Med Hist 1931; 3: 179–194.
  3. ^ Lewin L. Die Nebenwirkungen der Arzneimittel. Pharmakologisch-klinisches Handbuch. Berlin: August Hirschwald Verlag, 1881.
  4. ^ Lewin L. Phantastica. Die betäubenden und erregenden Genussmittel. Für Ärzte und Nichtärzte. Berlin: Verlag von Georg Stilke, 1924.
  5. ^ a b Lewin L. Gifte und Vergiftungen. Berlin: Verlag von Georg Stilke, 1929.
  6. ^ Stock A. Die Gefährlichkeit des Quecksilberdampfes. Z Angew Chem 1926; 15: 461-466. English translation.
  7. ^ Bjørklund G. The history of dental amalgam (in Norwegian). Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 1989; 109: 3582-3585.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "article name needed". The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.