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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index V > Rudolf Virchow Quotes

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Rudolf Virchow
(13 Oct 1821 - 5 Sep 1902)

German pathologist and statesman who originated the concept that disease arises in the individual cells of a tissue and, with publication of his Cellular Pathology (1858), founded the science of cellular pathology.

Science Quotes by Rudolf Virchow (34 quotes)

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'Science in itself' is nothing, for it exists only in the human beings who are its bearers. 'Science for its own sake' usually means nothing more than science for the sake of the people who happen to be pursuing it.
— Rudolf Virchow
'Standpoints in Scientific Medicine', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 42.
Science quotes on:  |  Research (395)  |  Science (1103)

Mikroskopisch sehen lernen.
Learn to see microscopically.
— Rudolf Virchow
In 'Festnummer zu Ehren Rudolf Virchow', Deutsche Medicinische Wochenschrift (1891), 42, 1166. As quoted in Erwin H. Ackerknecht, Rudolf Virchow: Doctor Statesman Anthropologist (1953), 21.
Science quotes on:  |  Learn (34)  |  Microscopic (6)  |  Seeing (48)

All of our experience indicates that life can manifest itself only in a concrete form, and that it is bound to certain substantial loci. These loci are cells and cell formations. But we are far from seeking the last and highest level of understanding in the morphology of these loci of life. Anatomy does not exclude physiology, but physiology certainly presupposes anatomy. The phenomena that the physiologist investigates occur in special organs with quite characteristic anatomical arrangements; the various morphological parts disclosed by the anatomist are the bearers of properties or, if you will, of forces probed by the physiologist; when the physiologist has established a law, whether through physical or chemical investigation, the anatomist can still proudly state: This is the structure in which the law becomes manifest.
— Rudolf Virchow
In 'Cellular-Pathologie', Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und fur klinische Medizin (1855), 8, 19, as translated in LellandJ. Rather, 'Cellular Pathology', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays by Rudolf Virchow (1958), 84.
Science quotes on:  |  Anatomist (10)  |  Anatomy (40)  |  Cell (104)  |  Characteristic (48)  |  Chemical (51)  |  Concrete (16)  |  Investigation (120)  |  Law (327)  |  Level (28)  |  Life (588)  |  Locus (2)  |  Morphology (15)  |  Organ (49)  |  Phenomenon (158)  |  Physiologist (10)  |  Physiology (53)  |  Pride (28)  |  Probe (4)  |  Property (68)  |  Seeking (30)  |  Structure (133)  |  Substantial (5)  |  Understanding (291)

As long as vitalism and spiritualism are open questions so long will the gateway of science be open to mysticism.
— Rudolf Virchow
Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine (1928), 4, 994.
Science quotes on:  |  Mysticism (4)  |  Spiritualism (2)  |  Vitalism (4)

Belief begins where science leaves off and ends where science begins.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1929), 14.
Science quotes on:  |  Belief (204)  |  Science (1103)

Belief cannot be reckoned with in terms of science, for science and faith are mutually exclusive.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1966), 576.
Science quotes on:  |  Science And Religion (195)

Belief has no place as far as science reaches, and may be first permitted to take root where science stops.
— Rudolf Virchow
'On Man', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 83.
Science quotes on:  |  Belief (204)  |  Science (1103)

Bismarck, enraged at Virchow's constant criticisms, has his seconds call upon the scientist to challenge him to a duel. 'As the challenged party, I have the choice of weapons,' said Virchow, 'and I chose these.' He held aloft two sausages. 'One of these,' he went on, 'is infected with deadly germs; the other is perfectly sound. Let his Excellency decide which one he wishes to eat, and I will eat the other.' Almost immediately the message came back that the chancellor had decided to laugh off the duel.
— Rudolf Virchow
As quoted in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), AndrΓ© Bernard (ed.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 556, citing E. Fuller, 2500 Anecdotes.
Science quotes on:  |  Otto von Bismarck (2)  |  Eat (17)  |  Germ (21)  |  Weapon (44)

Brevity in writing is the best insurance for its perusal.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1929), 16.
Science quotes on:  |  Publication (80)

Disease is not something personal and special, but only a manifestation of life under modified conditions, operating according to the same laws as apply to the living body at all times, from the first moment until death.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Ian F. McNeely, Medicine on a Grand Scale: Rudolf Virchow, Liberalism, and the Public Health (2002), 26.
Science quotes on:  |  Disease (192)  |  Life (588)

First, it must be a pleasure to study the human body the most miraculous masterpiece of nature and to learn about the smallest vessel and the smallest fiber. But second and most important, the medical profession gives the opportunity to alleviate the troubles of the body, to ease the pain, to console a person who is in distress, and to lighten the hour of death of many a sufferer.
— Rudolf Virchow
Reasons for his choice of medicine as a career, from essay written during his last year in the Gymnasium (high school). As quoted in Leslie Dunn, Rudolf Virchow: Now You Know His Name (2012), 8-9.
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I definitely deny that any pathological process, i.e. any life-process taking place under unfavourable circumstances, is able to call forth qualitatively new formations lying beyond the customary range of forms characteristic of the species. All pathological formations are either degenerations, transformations, or repetitions of typical physiological structures.
— Rudolf Virchow
In 'Cellular-Pathologie', Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und fur klinische Medizin (1855), 8, 13-14, as translated in LellandJ. Rather, 'Cellular Pathology', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays by Rudolf Virchow (1958), 81.
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I uphold my own rights, and therefore I also recognize the rights of others. This is the principle I act upon in life, in politics and in science. We owe it to ourselves to defend our rights, for it is the only guarantee for our individual development, and for our influence upon the community at large. Such a defence is no act of vain ambition, and it involves no renunciation of purely scientific aims. For, if we would serve science, we must extend her limits, not only as far as our own knowledge is concerned, but in the estimation of others.
— Rudolf Virchow
Cellular Pathology, translated by Frank Chance (1860), x.
Science quotes on:  |  Knowledge (853)  |  Limit (41)  |  Science (1103)

If popular medicine gave the people wisdom as well as knowledge, it would be the best protection for scientific and well-trained physicians.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1966), 577.
Science quotes on:  |  Knowledge (853)  |  Medicine (215)  |  Physician (193)  |  Wisdom (107)

If the man of science chose to follow the example of historians and pulpit-orators, and to obscure strange and peculiar phenomena by employing a hollow pomp of big and sounding words, this would be his opportunity; for we have approached one of the greatest mysteries which surround the problem of animated nature and distinguish it above all other problems of science. To discover the relations of man and woman to the egg-cell would be almost equivalent of the egg-cell in the body of the mother, the transfer to it by means of the seed, of the physical and mental characteristics of the father, affect all the questions which the human mind has ever raised in regard to existence.
— Rudolf Virchow
Quoted in Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel, The Evolution of Man (1897), vol 1, 148.
Science quotes on:  |  Embryo (16)

Imprisoned quacks are always replaced by new ones.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1966), 577.
Science quotes on:  |  Physician (193)  |  Quack (10)

Just as a tree constitutes a mass arranged in a definite manner, in which, in every single part, in the leaves as in the root, in the trunk as in the blossom, cells are discovered to be the ultimate elements, so is it also with the forms of animal life. Every animal presents itself as a sum of vital unities, every one of which manifests all the characteristics of life. The characteristics and unity of life cannot be limited to anyone particular spot in a highly developed organism (for example, to the brain of man), but are to be found only in the definite, constantly recurring structure, which every individual element displays. Hence it follows that the structural composition of a body of considerable size, a so-called individual, always represents a kind of social arrangement of parts, an arrangement of a social kind, in which a number of individual existences are mutually dependent, but in such a way, that every element has its own special action, and, even though it derive its stimulus to activity from other parts, yet alone effects the actual performance of its duties.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Lecture I, 'Cells and the Cellular Theory' (1858), Rudolf Virchow and Frank Chance (trans.) ,Cellular Pathology (1860), 13-14.
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Laws should be made, not against quacks but against superstition.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Fielding Hudson Garrison, An Introduction to the History of Medicine (1966), 577.
Science quotes on:  |  Law (327)  |  Physician (193)  |  Quack (10)  |  Superstition (40)

Life itself is but the expression of a sum of phenomena, each of which follows the ordinary physical and chemical laws. (1845)
— Rudolf Virchow
In Jonathan Miller, Freud: the Man, his World, His Influence (1972), 25
Science quotes on:  |  Law (327)  |  Life (588)

Life thus forms a long, unbroken chain of generations, in which the child becomes the mother, and the effect becomes the cause.
— Rudolf Virchow
In 'On the Mechanistic Interpretation of Life' (1858), Rudolf Virchow and Lelland J. Rather (trans.) , Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays by Rudolf Virchow (1958), 116.
Science quotes on:  |  Become (19)  |  Cause (166)  |  Chain (31)  |  Child (112)  |  Effect (94)  |  Form (103)  |  Generation (73)  |  Life (588)  |  Mother (34)  |  Unbroken (5)

Marriages are not normally made to avoid having children.
— Rudolf Virchow
Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine (1928), 4, 995.
Science quotes on:  |  Children (15)  |  Marriage (27)

Medicine is a social science, and politics is nothing else but medicine on a large scale. Medicine, as a social science, as the science of human beings, has the obligation to point out problems and to attempt their theoretical solution: the politician, the practical anthropologist, must find the means for their actual solution.
— Rudolf Virchow
(1848), in his weekly medical newspaper Die Medizinische Reform, 2. In Henry Ernest Sigerist, Medicine and Human Welfare, (1941) 93.
Science quotes on:  |  Medicine (215)  |  Politics (66)  |  Solution (131)

No doubt science cannot admit of compromises, and can only bring out the complete truth. Hence there must be controversy, and the strife may be, and sometimes must be, sharp. But must it even then be personal? Does it help science to attack the man as well as the statement? On the contrary, has not science the noble privilege of carrying on its controversies without personal quarrels?
— Rudolf Virchow
In his collected writings of 1861, preface. Quoted in Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Vol. 75, 300.
Science quotes on:  |  Controversy (13)  |  Science (1103)

No matter how we twist and turn we shall always come back to the cell. The eternal merit of Schwann does not lie in his cell theory that has occupied the foreground for so long, and perhaps will soon be given up, but in his description of the development of the various tissues, and in his demonstration that this development (hence all physiological activity) is in the end traceable back to the cell. Now if pathology is nothing but physiology with obstacles, and diseased life nothing but healthy life interfered with by all manner of external and internal influences then pathology too must be referred back to the cell.
— Rudolf Virchow
In 'Cellular-Pathologie', Archiv für pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und fur klinische Medizin (1855), 8, 13-14, as translated in LellandJ. Rather, 'Cellular Pathology', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays by Rudolf Virchow (1958), 81.
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Only those who regard healing as the ultimate goal of their efforts can, therefore, be designated as physicians.
— Rudolf Virchow
'Standpoints in Scientific Medicine', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 39.
Science quotes on:  |  Physician (193)

The body is a cell state in which every cell is a citizen. Disease is merely the conflict of the citizens of the state brought about by the action of external forces. (1858)
— Rudolf Virchow
From Die Cellularpathologie (1858). As cited in Alan Lindsay Mackay, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (1991), 250. Although widely quoted in this form, Webmaster has not yet been able to pin down the source of the translation in these few words. (It might be in Rudolph Virchow translated by Lelland J. Rather, Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 142-9.) If you know the exact citation to the primary source, please contact Webmaster.
Science quotes on:  |  Body (127)  |  Cell (104)  |  Citizen (13)  |  Conflict (32)  |  Disease (192)  |  External (23)  |  Force (105)  |  State (47)

The personal views of the lecturer may seem to be brought forward with undue exclusiveness, but, as it is his business to give a clear exposition of the actual state of the science which he treats, he is obliged to define with precision the principles, the correctness of which he has proved by his own experience.
— Rudolf Virchow
Cellular Pathology, translated by Frank Chance (1860), xi.
Science quotes on:  |  Lecture (41)  |  Proof (160)

The physicians are the natural attorneys of the poor, and social problems fall to a large extent within their juristiction.
— Rudolf Virchow
Introductory article, Die medizinische Reform. In Henry Ernest Sigerist, Medicine and Human Welfare, (1941) 93.
Science quotes on:  |  Money (94)  |  Physician (193)

The physicians surely are the natural advocates of the poor and the social problem largely falls within their scope.
— Rudolf Virchow
In 'The Aims of the Journal “Medical Reform”' (1848), collected in L. J. Rather (ed.), Collected Essays on Public Health and Epidemiology (1985), Vol. 1, 4.
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The task of science is to stake out the limits of the knowable, and to center consciousness within them.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Bernard E. Farber, A Teacher's Treasury of Quotations (1985), 264.
Science quotes on:  |  Knowledge (853)  |  Limit (41)  |  Science (1103)

The task of science, therefore, is not to attack the objects of faith, but to establish the limits beyond which knowledge cannot go and found a unified self-consciousness within these limits.
— Rudolf Virchow
'On Man', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 83.
Science quotes on:  |  Knowledge (853)  |  Science And Religion (195)

There can be no scientific dispute with respect to faith, for science and faith exclude one another.
— Rudolf Virchow
'On Man', Disease, Life, and Man: Selected Essays (1958), 83.
Science quotes on:  |  Science And Religion (195)

We have no rational therapeutics.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Medical Century (1906), 14:11, 336.
Science quotes on:  |  Rational (21)  |  Therapy (9)

Where a cell arises, there a cell must have previously existed (omnis cellula e cellula), just as an animal can spring only from an animal, a plant only from a plant. In this manner, although there are still a few spots in the body where absolute demonstration has not yet been afforded, the principle is nevertheless established, that in the whole series of living things, whether they be entire plants or animal organisms, or essential constituents of the same, an eternal law of continuous development prevails.
— Rudolf Virchow
In Lecture II 'Physiological Tissues' (1858), Rudolf Virchow and Frank Chance (trans.), Cellular Patholog (1860), 27-28.
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Quotes by others about Rudolf Virchow (3)

That ability to impart knowledge … what does it consist of? … a deep belief in the interest and importance of the thing taught, a concern about it amounting to a sort of passion. A man who knows a subject thoroughly, a man so soaked in it that he eats it, sleeps it and dreams it—this man can always teach it with success, no matter how little he knows of technical pedagogy. That is because there is enthusiasm in him, and because enthusiasm is almost as contagious as fear or the barber’s itch. An enthusiast is willing to go to any trouble to impart the glad news bubbling within him. He thinks that it is important and valuable for to know; given the slightest glow of interest in a pupil to start with, he will fan that glow to a flame. No hollow formalism cripples him and slows him down. He drags his best pupils along as fast as they can go, and he is so full of the thing that he never tires of expounding its elements to the dullest.
This passion, so unordered and yet so potent, explains the capacity for teaching that one frequently observes in scientific men of high attainments in their specialties—for example, Huxley, Ostwald, Karl Ludwig, Virchow, Billroth, Jowett, William G. Sumner, Halsted and Osler—men who knew nothing whatever about the so-called science of pedagogy, and would have derided its alleged principles if they had heard them stated.
In Prejudices: third series (1922), 241-2.
For a longer excerpt, see H.L. Mencken on Teaching, Enthusiasm and Pedagogy.
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Pathology, probably more than any other branch of science, suffers from heroes and hero-worship. Rudolf Virchow has been its archangel and William Welch its John the Baptist, while Paracelsus and Cohnheim have been relegated to the roles of Lucifer and Beelzebub. … Actually, there are no heroes in Pathology—all of the great thoughts permitting advance have been borrowed from other fields, and the renaissance of pathology stems not from pathology itself but from the philosophers Kant and Goethe.
Quoted from an address to a second year class, in Levin L. Waters, obituary for Harry S. N. Greene, M.D., in Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine (Feb-Apr 1971), 43:4-5, 207.
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During the half-century that has elapsed since the enunciation of the cell-theory by Schleiden and Schwann, in 1838-39, it has became ever more clearly apparent that the key to all ultimate biological problems must, in the last analysis, be sought in the cell. It was the cell-theory that first brought the structure of plants and animals under one point of view by revealing their common plan of organization. It was through the cell-theory that Kolliker and Remak opened the way to an understanding of the nature of embryological development, and the law of genetic continuity lying at the basis of inheritance. It was the cell­theory again which, in the hands of Virchaw and Max Schultze, inaugurated a new era in the history of physiology and pathology, by showing that all the various functions of the body, in health and in disease, are but the outward expression of cell­activities. And at a still later day it was through the cell-theory that Hertwig, Fol, Van Beneden, and Strasburger solved the long-standing riddle of the fertilization of the egg, and the mechanism of hereditary transmission. No other biological generalization, save only the theory of organic evolution, has brought so many apparently diverse phenomena under a common point of view or has accomplished more far the unificatian of knowledge. The cell-theory must therefore be placed beside the evolution-theory as one of the foundation stones of modern biology.
The Cell in Development and Inheritance (1896), 1.
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Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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Frederick Banting
Andre Ampere
Winston Churchill
- 80 -
John Locke
Bronislaw Malinowski
Thomas Huxley
Alessandro Volta
Erwin Schrodinger
Wilhelm Roentgen
Louis Pasteur
Bertrand Russell
Jean Lamarck
- 70 -
Samuel Morse
John Wheeler
Nicolaus Copernicus
Robert Fulton
Pierre Laplace
Humphry Davy
Thomas Edison
Lord Kelvin
Theodore Roosevelt
Carolus Linnaeus
- 60 -
Francis Galton
Linus Pauling
Immanuel Kant
Martin Fischer
Robert Boyle
Karl Popper
Paul Dirac
James Watson
William Shakespeare
- 50 -
Stephen Hawking
Niels Bohr
Nikola Tesla
Rachel Carson
Max Planck
Henry Adams
Richard Dawkins
Werner Heisenberg
Alfred Wegener
John Dalton
- 40 -
Pierre Fermat
Edward Wilson
Johannes Kepler
Gustave Eiffel
Giordano Bruno
JJ Thomson
Thomas Kuhn
Leonardo DaVinci
David Hume
- 30 -
Andreas Vesalius
Rudolf Virchow
Richard Feynman
James Hutton
Alexander Fleming
Emile Durkheim
Benjamin Franklin
Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Hooke
Charles Kettering
- 20 -
Carl Sagan
James Maxwell
Marie Curie
Rene Descartes
Francis Crick
Michael Faraday
Srinivasa Ramanujan
Francis Bacon
Galileo Galilei
- 10 -
John Watson
Rosalind Franklin
Michio Kaku
Isaac Asimov
Charles Darwin
Sigmund Freud
Albert Einstein
Florence Nightingale
Isaac Newton

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