Robert Koch and Koch’s Postulates


Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch was a German physician and microbiologist who is widely regarded as one of the founders of modern bacteriology and a pioneer of public health. He was born on December 11, 1843, in Clausthal, a mining town in the Harz Mountains of Germany. He was the third of thirteen children of a mining engineer father and a well-educated mother.

From an early age, Koch showed remarkable intellectual abilities and a keen interest in science and literature. He taught himself to read newspapers when he was only five years old and became proficient in chess and classical languages. He attended high school in Clausthal, where he excelled in mathematics, physics, and biology. He decided to pursue a career in medicine after being influenced by his teachers, especially Friedrich Gustav Jacob Henle, a renowned anatomist and histologist who proposed the germ theory of disease.

Koch studied medicine at the University of Göttingen from 1862 to 1866, where he learned from eminent professors such as Rudolf Virchow, Karl Ewald Hasse, and Georg Meissner. He graduated with honors and received his doctorate degree with a dissertation on the structure of the uterine nerve. He then worked as a physician in various provincial towns in Germany, where he gained practical experience in treating various diseases and conducting autopsies. He also developed his skills in microscopy and histology by building his own laboratory equipment and experimenting with different staining techniques.

In 1870-1871, Koch served as a field surgeon during the Franco-Prussian War, where he witnessed the devastating effects of infectious diseases such as typhoid fever and dysentery on soldiers and civilians. He became convinced that these diseases were caused by specific microorganisms that could be identified and isolated using scientific methods. He returned to his post as a district surgeon in Wollstein (now Wolsztyn, Poland), where he devoted his spare time to studying the anthrax bacillus, which was known to cause a fatal disease in cattle and sheep. His groundbreaking research on anthrax marked the beginning of his illustrious career as a bacteriologist and earned him international recognition and acclaim.