Berlin: Bronze Bust in Honor of Paul Langerhans on the Charité Campus


The European Association for the Study of Diabetes will unveil a bronze bust in honor of the Berlin researcher during a commemoration ceremony on Sunday, September 30, 2012.

According to a press release of the EASD/European Association for the Study of Diabetes:
BERLIN Next week more than 18,000 diabetes experts from around the world will meet in Berlin (Messe Berlin, Messedamm 22) at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD). Prior to the Annual Meeting, the Association will unveil a bronze bust commemorating the Berlin researcher Paul Langerhans:

A Memorial to the Researcher
On Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 5:00 PM the EASD will unveil a bronze bust on a pedestal in honor of Paul Langerhans. State Secretary Dr. Knut Nevermann (on behalf of the Governing Mayor of Berlin), Professor M. Dietel (director of the Institute of Pathology), Professor T. Schnalke (director of the Institute of the History of Medicine of the Charité) and Professor A. Boulton, president of the EASD, will be present at the ceremony. The bronze bust by the Berlin sculptor Frank Herweg  will stand in front of the entrance of the former Institute of Pathology on the grounds of the Charité, next to the Museum of the History of Medicine (Virchowweg 15).

"Scattered like Islets"
Background: Everyone who has anything to do with diabetes is familiar with Langerhans’ name, because of his pioneering research on the pancreas: Langerhans was the first to describe the cell clusters that are scattered like “islets in the entire pancreas”.
Paul Langerhans was born on July 25, 1847 in Köpenickerstrasse in Berlin. His father was a doctor and a politician, who with his friend Rudolf Virchow fought on the barricades of the Berlin uprising of 1848 and who later became an honorary citizen of the City of Berlin. The young Paul Langerhans was an outstanding student, who graduated with an Abitur diploma in Berlin from the ‘Graues Kloster’ school.

University Studies in Jena and Berlin
He first studied in Jena and later in Berlin, where he wrote his dissertation under the supervision of Rudolf Virchow and received his doctorate in 1869. The topic of his dissertation was “Contributions to the Microscopic Anatomy of the Pancreas”. In this dissertation he was the first scientist in the world to describe small cell clusters found in the pancreas, which looked very different from the other pancreatic cells. He wrote that these cells were like islets scattered throughout the entire pancreas; however, he had no idea what they might be good for.

Naming of the "Pancreatic Islets"
Many years later, the islet cells in the pancreas were rediscovered by scientists in France, but reference was taken to his doctoral thesis and he was honored by naming the pancreatic islets after him. However, he did not live to experience this honor. Paul Langerhans died five days before his 41st birthday on July 20, 1888 in Madeira, where he had gone for his severe tuberculosis.

Not Only Diabetes
The name Langerhans is not only associated with diabetes research. In 1869 the young researcher also made another discovery: In the laboratory of Rudolf Virchow he discovered cells in the skin that have many teeth-like protuberances. It was not until 100 years later that it was discovered that these cells described by Langerhans play a major role in immune response. After these pioneering discoveries in the last year of medical school, Langerhans set out on various travels, among other places to Israel, but he was then drafted as a military doctor during the Franco-German War in 1870.

Freiburg: Professor of Pathology
In 1871 he became Professor of Pathology at the University of Freiburg. Three years later he was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis. As treatment, his doctors recommended that he stay for a time in a warm climate. Initially he went to Capri to live, then to Switzerland and later to Madeira, where he died. Paul Langerhans is buried in the British cemetery in Madeira.