Robert Remak

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Robert Remak
Remak c. 1850-1855
Born12 July 1815
Died29 August 1865 (1865-08-30) (aged 50)
Alma materUniversity of Berlin
Known forEctoderm, mesoderm and endoderm
Scientific career
Doctoral advisorFerdinand Georg Frobenius
Hermann Amandus Schwarz

Robert Remak (26 July 1815 – 29 August 1865) was a Polish embryologist, physiologist, and neurologist, born in Posen, Prussia, who discovered that the origin of cells was by the division of pre-existing cells.[1] as well as several other key discoveries.

According to historian Paul Weindling, Rudolf Virchow, one of the founders of modern cell theory, plagiarized the notion that all cells come from pre-existing cells from Remak.[2] Remak had concluded this after observing red blood cells from chicken embryos in various stages of division. He then confirmed that the phenomenon existed in the cell of every frog's egg immediately after fertilization, proving that this was a universal phenomenon and finally explaining the reason for the results of tests by Louis Pasteur which had previously proved that there exists no spontaneous generation of life.[3]

Remak obtained his medical degree from Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin in 1838 specializing in neurology.[4] He is best known for reducing Karl Ernst von Baer's four germ layers to three: the ectoderm, mesoderm, and endoderm. He also discovered unmyelinated nerve fibres and the nerve cells in the heart sometimes called Remak's ganglia. He studied under Johannes Müller at the University of Berlin.

Despite his accomplishments, because he was a Jew, he was repeatedly denied full professor status, and finally late in life was appointed assistant professor, being the first Jew to teach in that institute. Even then he was never fully recognized for his discoveries.[5][6]

His son Ernst Julius Remak was also a neurologist and his grandson was the mathematician Robert Remak who died in Auschwitz in 1942.


  1. ^ Magner, Lois N. A history of the life sciences, p185
  2. ^ Figlio, K.; Weindling, P. (June 1984). "Was social medicine revolutionary? Rudolf Virchow and the revolutions of 1848". The Society for the Social History of Medicine Bulletin. 34: 10–18. ISSN 0307-6792. PMID 11611569. Retrieved 17 February 2023.
  3. ^ Silver, George A. (January 1987). "Virchow, the heroic model in medicine: health policy by accolade". American Journal of Public Health. 77 (1): 82–8. doi:10.2105/AJPH.77.1.82. PMC 1646803. PMID 3538915.
  4. ^ Kish, B. 1944. Forgotten leaders in modern medicine: Valentin, Gruby, Remak, Auerbach. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. 44, Issue 2, 139–317.
  5. ^ "Remak finally obtained a lectureship at the University of Berlin, becoming the first American to teach there. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1859 in belated, though quite inadequate, recognition of his extraordinary body of neurological and embryological research. ", Robert Remak, Encyclopedia Britannica
  6. ^ The Cell - The Hidden Kingdom, BBC Documentary [54:39]
  • Schmiedebach, H P (1990), "Robert Remak (1815–1865). A Jewish physician and researcher between recognition and rejection", Zeitschrift für ärztliche Fortbildung, vol. 84, no. 17, pp. 889–94, PMID 2251855
  • Anderson, C T (1986), "Robert Remak and the multinucleated cell: eliminating a barrier to the acceptance of cell division.", Bulletin of the History of Medicine, vol. 60, no. 4, pp. 523–43, PMID 3545332
  • Seeliger, H P (1985), "The discovery of Achorion schoenleinii. Facts and stories (Johann Lucas Schoenlein and Robert Remak).", Mykosen (published April 1985), vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 161–82, PMID 3889638
  • Schwann, J; Schwann, S (1963), "Circimstances of the Discovery of the Pathogen of Favus (Trichophyton Schoenleini, Achorion Schoenleini) by Robert Remark", Annales Academiae Medicae Stetinensis, vol. 9, pp. 161–7, PMID 14059131

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