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PETTENKOFER, Max Joseph von (1818-1901)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0809 Pettenkofer
Held at: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
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Full title: PETTENKOFER, Max Joseph von (1818-1901)
Date(s): [1891]
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 file
Name of creator(s): Pettenkofer | Max Josef von | 1818-1901 | Public sanitation pioneer


Administrative/Biographical history:

Max Joseph von Pettenkofer was born in southern Germany in 1818; attended high school in Munich and then studied pharmacy, natural science and medicine, qualifying with a Phd in medicine, surgery and midwifery, 1843. Pettenkofer then applied to join Liebig's laboratory at Giessen, having to wait two years to enter. During these two years he studied at Würzberg, devising the test for bile acid that bears his name and started research into meat juices which inspired Liebig to investigate them.

Pettenkofer left Giessen to seek better-paid employment in Munich; was appointed Extraordinary Professor of Pathological Chemistry at the University of Munich, 1847 and was promoted to Ordinary Professor 8 years later. Pettenkofer became Chief of the Court Pharmacy and Apothecary to the Court, 1850 and began investigating John Snow's thesis that cholera and typhoid were water-borne, following epidemics in Munich. Results of his investigation convinced him that the cause lay in the moisture content of the soil which varied with the rise and fall of ground water. Despite his fallacious theories Pettenkofer's sanitary work improved the health of Munich. Pettenkofer refused to believe in the germ theory and is said to have drunk a vial of water contaminated by Vibrio cholerae which was sent to him by Robert Koch, assuring Koch that he remained in his usual good health. There is a theory that this was a death wish in disguise as he later committed suicide in 1901.

Publications: Cholera: how to prevent and resist it (Baillière Tindall, & Cox, London, 1883); Outbreak of cholera among convicts : an etiological study of the influence of dwelling, food, drinking-water, occupation, age, state of health, and intercourse upon the course of cholera in a community living in precisely the same circumstances (Asher, London, 1876) and The value of health to a city: two lectures delivered in 1873 (Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore, 1941).


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Max Joseph von Pettenkofer, [1891], relate to his interest and work concerning sanitation and pollution and comprise a handwritten manuscript titled 'On the self purification of rivers'.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged in original order.

Conditions governing access:

This collection is open for consultation. Please contact the Archivist to arrange an appointment. All researchers must complete and sign a user registration form which signifies their agreement to abide by the archive rules. All researchers are required to provide proof of identity bearing your signature (for example, a passport or debit card)when registering. Please see website for further information at

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies, subject to the condition of the original, may be supplied for research use only. Requests to publish original material should be submitted to the Archivist.

Finding aids:

No additional finding aids exist.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:


Allied Materials

Related material:

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Sources: Behind the Frieze - Max von Pettenkofer (1818-1901) London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Archives website.
Compiled by Samantha Velumyl, AIM25 cataloguer.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
February 2008

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