Theodor Bilharz

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Theodor Bilharz.

Theodor Maximilian Bilharz (23 March 1825 – 9 May 1862) was a German physician and an important pioneer in the field of parasitology.


Bilharz attended the secondary school in Sigmaringen, Baden. He took an early interest in entomology and studied philosophy for two years at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg im Breisgau. He studied medicine at the University of Tübingen, and in 1847 he won the medical faculty's prize competition for his dissertation on the blood of invertebrates.[1] He graduated from Tübingen in 1848 as a pathologist.[2] He passed the state exam in 1848 and took a position as the Chief of Pathology at the University of Freiburg.[1]

Medical career[edit]

In 1850 he accompanied his former teacher, Wilhelm Griesinger, to Egypt and became the first chief of the surgery at the Kasr-el-Aini Medical School and Kasr El Aini Hospital of Cairo. There he also held the position of senior consultant for the department of internal medicine, and also served in the military where he achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel (Kaimakam.)[1] In 1851, Bilharz discovered the cestode worm Hymenolepis nana living in the small intestine of an Egyptian male.[3] Also, in 1851, during an autopsy, he discovered the trematode worm that is the cause of urinary schistosomiasis, initially naming it Distomum haematobium. It was subsequently noted that only one of the suckers contained an oral cavity,[4] and in 1856 Heinrich Meckel von Hemsbach proposed that the organism be renamed Bilharzia haematobium.[1] In 1858 Weinland proposed the name Schistosoma (Greek: 'split body') after the male worms' morphology, and the name Schistosoma haematobium was officially adopted by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.[4] In 1853 Bilharz became chief of medicine, and in 1856 he was appointed Professor of Anatomy.


Bilahrz's grave in old Cairo German Cemetery.

He died in 1862 from complications of typhoid fever after returning to Cairo from an expedition to Massawa, at the age of 37.[5] He is buried in Cairo in a grave next to Hans Eisele, a Nazi concentration camp doctor.[6]



  1. ^ a b c d Edward Griffor and Craig Smorynski (trans.): Logic's Lost Genius: The Life of Gerhard Gentzen (History of Mathematics, vol. 33). American Mathematical Society 2007, ISBN 978-0-8218-3550-0 (an English translation)
  2. ^ Who named it
  3. ^ Beaver PC, Jung RC, Cupp EW Clinical Parasitology. 8th ed. Lea-Febiger, 1986
  4. ^ a b Jordan, Peter (1985). Schistosomiasis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 1. ISBN 0-521-30312-5.
  5. ^ Kean, edited by B.H.; Mott, Kenneth E.; Russell, Adair J. (1978). Tropical medicine and parasitology: classic investigations. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. p. 474. ISBN 978-0-8014-0992-9.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Tan, SY; Ahana, A. "Theodor Bioharz (1825-1862): discoverer of schistosomiasis" (PDF). Medicine in Stamps. Singapore Med J. Retrieved 3 December 2015.

Further reading[edit]

Schadewaldt, Hans (1970–1980). "Bilharz, Theodor". Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 2. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 127–128. ISBN 978-0-684-10114-9.