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Semmelweis University Gallery


Fodor, József


(of Galánta)

(B. 16th July, 1843, Lakócsa – D. 20th March, 1901, Budapest,)

Dean : 1888/89 – 1891/92

He came from a landowner’s family of Somogy county. He started his studies in Vienna and from the beginning of the second year he continued to study medicine in Budapest, where he received his medical degree on 19th October, 1865. Shortly afterwards he obtained a degree as a master in ophthalmology and obstetrics, and finally on 17th July, 1866 he acquired a degree in surgery as well. From January, 1886 he was assistant lecturer at the Department of State Medicine (a mixture of public health and forensic medicine at that time), then he became a coroner in the city centre of Pest. He became chief dissecting doctor of the Saint Rókus Hospital in 1869. In the same year, he was habilitated as honorary lecturer in medical officer’s practice. Having received a grant from the state in 1870 he went on a longer study trip to Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and England, visiting the most important institutions in the field of public health. In Munich he attended Max Josef von Pettenkofer’s courses and worked in the laboratory of Freiherr Justus von Liebig. He also visited Friedrich Daniel von Recklinghausen’s and Hilger’s institutes in Würzburg. In 1872 he was appointed professor of state medicine at the newly established University of Kolozsvár. He went on another study trip to France and England in the following year and wrote a study of great impact about public health conditions in England and Hungary which won the Great Prize of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. In 1874 the Budapest Faculty of Medicine invited him to be head of the newly established Department of Public Health. It was on his initiation that the institution of school doctors and teachers of hygiene was introduced at schools in 1885. In the same year with collaboration of Lajos Markusovszky he founded the National Society of Public Health. Between 1879 and 1887 he edited the Bulletin of Natural Sciences and headed its column on “Hygiene”. From 1887 he was editor of the Bulletin of the Society of Public Health entitled “Health”. He also edited the supplement of the Hungarian Medical Journal entitled Public Health and Forensic Medicine. Being the first Hungarian professional authority on public health he played a major role in the in-service training of hygienic doctors. He is considered to be one of the internationally recognised founders of public health. His research on the pollution of air, soil and water is of classical importance both in terms of methodology and scientific conclusions and significantly contributed to the refutation of Pettenkofer’s false soil theory. He was among the first ones to demonstrate the role of water in spreading typhoid fever. His research on the toxicity of carbon monoxide is also of great significance. He recognised the importance of bacteriology. He put the results of his research into practice in several areas of public health (e.g. water supply of the capital, sewage system, etc.) He was the first one in the world who raised the plan of establishing a National Institute of Public Health and also a Regional Institute of Public Health and Epidemiology. In 1872 he became member of the National Board of Public Health. From 14th June, 1878 he became corresponding and from 17th May, 1883 regular member of the Academy of Sciences and in 1891 an honorary doctor of Cambridge University. He was an honorary foreign member of the German Public Health Association (Verein für Öffentliche Gesundheitspflege) and also of various public health associations of Paris, Brussels, Florence and London. He was elected honorary member of the Association of Medical Officers of Great Britain. He was the Hungarian member of the Permanent Committee of the International Health and Demographic Congress. At the 1882-83 International Health Exhibition in Berlin he was honoured with gold medal by Empress Augusta for his research instruments and scientific tools. Between 1888-1892, for four academic years, he was dean of the Budapest Faculty of Medicine and in 1894-95 rector of the university. As early as eight years after his death, a statue in his memory was erected on 29th August, 1909 on the square known then as Sándor square.

(Major works: About outside toilet systems with regard to domestic conditions, especially of Pest, 1869.; Public health in England with regard to the situation of medicine, health regulations, forensic medicine and the conditions in Hungary. Bp., 1873; Healthy houses and dwellings. Bp., 1877. / In German: Das gesunde Haus und die gesunde Wohnung. Braunschweig, 1878./ ; The Public Health. Bp., 1879. / Official report on the universal exhibition held in Paris in 1878 III./ ; Research on the hygiene of air, soil and water. Bp., 1880-81. ; Description of the Public Health Institute of the Hungarian Royal University in Budapest, presented on the occasion of the International Health Exhibition in Berlin on behalf of the minister of religion and public education. Bp., 1882. / Published in German as well./ ; Some instruments for hygienic lectures and experiments: on the occasion of the International Health and Life-saving Exhibition held in Berlin in 1882-83. Bp.,1883. /With Hungarian and German texts./, Report on school health care. Bp.,1888. /Presentation at the 6th International Health Conference in Vienna./ ;Hygiene des Bodens. Jena, 1893.in: Weyls: Handbuch der Hygiene, Volume I. Chapter 1.; Reform of qualification and training of medical officers. Bp., 1898.) Quotation: Hungarian Encyclopaedia of Biographies (Magyar Életrajzi Lexikon) ed.: Ágnes Kenyeres.