Karl Friedrich Burdach




Born: 12.06.1776 in Leipzig

Died: 16.07.1847 in Königsberg


Doctorate: 1797 (?) in Leipzig

University lecturer: 1799 - 1811 Leipzig, 1818 - 1814 Dorpat, from 1814 Königsberg


Burdach was the only child of Daniel Christian Burdach, who practised and taught medicine in Leipzig until his untimely death. The son studied the same subject in his native town and qualified as a lecturer there as well. To further his education, he then went to Vienna but returned to Leipzig at the age of 23 to teach and practice. Burdach, who was fascinated by Schelling's natural philosophy, published widely during this period to overcome his financial problems.

After several unsuccessful applications, he received a professorship for anatomy, physiology and forensic medicine in Dorpat in 1811. Burdach, who was now finally financially independent, started to become especially interested in embryology. In 1814 he accepted a call to Königsberg, where he taught as Professor of Anatomy. He also founded an anatomical institute there, and was director of this organisation until 1826. His pro-rectors were the embryologists von Baer and Rathke, who later became very famous in this field.

Burdach's greatest contribution to science was his handbook Die Physiologie als Erfahrungswisssenschaft (physiology as a science of experience). While preparing this work, he fostered contacts with numerous researchers in every branch of the natural sciences. The completed publication was supposed to deal with every factor influencing life, but it remained unfinished as the volumes on movement, sensation and the activity of the soul were never published.

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