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Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow: pathologist, physician, anthropologist, and politician

Implications of his work for the understanding of cerebrovascular pathology and stroke

Sam Safavi-Abbasi, Cassius Reis, Melanie C. Talley, Nicholas Theodore, Peter Nakaji, Robert F. Spetzler and Mark C. Preul

✓ The history of apoplexy and descriptions of stroke symptoms date back to ancient times. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century, however, that the contributions of Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow, including his descriptions of the phenomena he called “embolism” and “thrombosis” as well as the origins of ischemia, changed the understanding of stroke. He suggested three main factors that conduce to venous thrombosis, which are now known as the Virchow triad. He also showed that portions of what he called a “thrombus” could detach and form an “embolus.” Thus, Virchow coined these terms to describe the pathogenesis of the disorder. It was also not until 1863 that Virchow recognized and differentiated almost all of the common types of intracranial malformations: telangiectatic venous malformations, arterial malformations, arteriovenous malformations, cystic angiomas (possibly what are now called hemangioblastomas), and transitional types of these lesions. This article is a review of the contributions of Rudolf Virchow to the current understanding of cerebrovascular pathology, and a summary of the life of this extraordinary personality in his many roles as physician, pathologist, anthropologist, ethnologist, and politician.

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Ernest Joseph Barthélemy, Christopher A. Sarkiss, James Lee and Raj K. Shrivastava

's close friends and colleagues included the French clinicians Charles Robin and Paul Broca. Additionally, during a brief stay in Berlin in the winter of 1845–1846, he also made the acquaintance of the great German pathologist, Rudolf Virchow ( Fig. 6 ), before returning to Paris in 1846. 37 FIG. 5. Portrait of Hermann Lebert (1813–1878). Public domain; courtesy of the National Library of Medicine. FIG. 6. Photograph of Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow (1821–1902). Public domain; courtesy of the National Library of Medicine. In his 1851 treatise on cancer