Arning, edward

Author: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer

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Last updated on: 29.10.2020

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Biographical details
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  • (¤ 1855, † 1936) Born in Manchester, he received his school education at the Johanneum in Hamburg; there he passed his Abitur. He completed his medical studies in Heidelberg and Strasbourg. In Berlin he met the dermatologist Oskar Lassar, a native of Hamburg, who inspired him for the subject. First dermatological training with Oskar Simon in Breslau. Under Albert Neisser Arning became his first assistant. The Prussian Academy of Sciences commissioned him to research leprosy in Hawaii.
  • After leaving the clinic in Breslau, he went to the Sandwich Islands in Hawaii from 1883-1886 as a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation of the Prussian Academy of Sciences to research leprosy. Here Arning experimented with people by infecting them with leprosy bacteria and observing the development of the disease (inoculation experiments). A budget of 10,000 Marks was made available to him for his research. In his research proposal Arning named the "favourable experimental conditions". Initially, experiments with animals were on his agenda, which he infected with leprosy nodules from patients of the leprosy hospital in Kakako.
  • Then (1884) followed the ethically reprehensible vaccination experiments on healthy people with deliberately accepted fatal outcome, the results of which Arning presented in 1889 in Prague at the German Dermatological Society (!). His experiment concerned the 48-year-old Polynesian Keanu, whom he called "material". Keanu was married and father of two children. Analogous to his animal experiments Arning took a leprosy nodule from a girl who "for years had been the picture of a tuberous leprosy" and implanted it into Keanu and observed the course of the disease. In 1888 Arning was able to evaluate his experiment: "Ears knotty and considerably enlarged, as well as skin of the forehead; cheeks, nose and chin show flat knotty infiltrations, face generally shows the characteristic facies leonina, hands bloated. This was the first time Arning could prove that leprosy was contagious. For his "material", however, the experiment was fatal. Keanu was exiled to the leper island Molokai in February 1889 and died in March 1889.
  • As late as 1925, on the occasion of Arning's 70th birthday, J. Jadassohn remarked: "It was deeply rooted in your whole being and your career that you always put the purely medical, the helping and healing, first and foremost. Obviously, at that time, the dubiousness of Arning's inhuman experiments was not a medical idea. After his stay in Hawaii Arning settled down in Hamburg as a dermatologist. In 1906 he took over a position as senior physician at the St. Georg General Hospital in Hamburg. In 1914 he was appointed professor. In 1923, after P .G. Unna left, he became his successor at Hamburg University. His most famous students were Felix Lewandowsky and his successor in Hamburg, Hans Ritter.

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Last updated on: 29.10.2020

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