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Semmelweis University Gallery

 

Preisz, Hugó

 

(B. 21st September, 1860, Ruma – D. 5th July, 1940, Budapest)

Dean 191213 – 1913/14

Preisz was born in Ruma, Szerémség, where his father, who had actually come from Baranya county, served as a cantor-teacher for 40 years. Hugo started learning in a German elementary school and he was already 11 when he joined a Hungarian primary school nearby. He began his secondary school studies in the Jesuit secondary school in Kalocsa in 1873, then continued in the meanwhile established state secondary school in Újvidék in 1875 where Ferenc Bruck, one of his teachers, directed his attention towards natural sciences.

He graduated in 1880, then enrolled at the Medical Faculty of the university in Budapest in 1880. Hugo Preisz obtained his medical degree on 28th November, 1885. He became an intern in the fifth year and later an assistant lecturer, first at the Institute of Pathology (1885-1887), and then at the Institute of Forensic Medicine (1888-1889).

Starting in the autumn of 1889 and until he obtained his degree in surgery, he worked at the 2nd Surgical Clinic for one year. At the beginning of his career, he did research on internal medical pathology in general and cardiac disorders in special, then, under the influence of Leó Liebermann, he focused on bacteriology, a novel medical biological discipline of the time. In the following two decades of his career he laid the foundations for bacteriology in Hungary and established its institutional background.

In respect of the bacteriological laboratory planned by the Veterinary School, the Ministry of Agriculture sent Preisz on a one-year academic trip to Germany, France and Belgium (Dresden: Heinrich Albert John, Berlin: Robert Koch, Lyon: Saturnin Arloing, Montpellier: pathology department of the university, Paris-Institut Pasteur: Pierre Paul Émile Roux.) On his return to Hungary in 1891, he was made head of the by then established Institute of Bacteriology. From 1894, he was professor extraordinarius, and from 1895 professor ordinarius of the School of Veterinary Surgery (which function he held until 1906).

Over his career there, he did research on infectious diseases of domestic animals, e.g. the bacteriological pathology of bovine tuberculosis, pig pest and pig pasteurellosis. While studying pig pest, he recognized connections between the progress and outcome of the disease as well as the antibody content of the serum.

Independently of Edmond Nocard, merely on the basis of his own research results, Preisz defined the causative agent of pseudotuberculosis in rodents which is now also known as Preisz-Nocard-bacterium. He became member of the Forensic Medicine Council, and the National Board of Public Health in 1896 and 1897, respectively. His public health and serological research was significant, too. As a leader of university bacteriological departments, he supervised the preparation of several human and veterinary diagnostics for decades. Starting in 1894 and for decades to come, he spearheaded the production of serum against diphtheria, and against cholera and typhus during the First World War. In 1907, he accepted the invitation made by the Faculty of Medicine in Budapest to lead the newly-established Institute of Bacteriology. He held this function until his retirement in 1931. Simultaneously, from 1914 to 1931, he lectured on general pathology, too.

During his human and general bacteriological research he carried out experiments on the diagnostic application of mallein which is secreted by certain bacteria, and compared causative agents of human and animal tuberculoses.

The most significant results of his research studies include the connection between the virulence of anthrax bacteria (Bacillus anthacis) and the production of poly-D-glutamic acid capsule as part of the protection of bacteria, the definition of environmental factors influencing the intensity of bacteria spore production, as well as bacteriophage, i.e. the detection and description of bacterium viruses causing the death of host bacteria. In the last phase of his career, he became interested in the immunology of infections and immunity.

He delivered his inaugural address at the Academy on bacteriology and serology: Studies on the effect of antipneumococcus serum (17th May, 1915) and Studies on bacteriophage (24th March, 1924). From 2nd May, 1912, he was a corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and a regular member from 11th May, 1923.

He served as president of the physiology section of the Hungarian Society of Natural Sciences between 1927 and 1931 and that of the microbiology section between 1927 and 1938. He became an honorary member of the Tisza István Scientific Society, Debrecen, and an honorary doctor of the Tisza István University, Debrecen in 1937. He was elected corresponding member of the Wiener Gesellschaft für Mikrobiologie and vice-president of the Association of Doctors, Budapest. From 1916 he was a regular, then from 1929 an honorary member of the Saint Stephen Academy. He was given Hungarian nobility and the title Rumai in 1918. He held the position of dean of the Faculty of Medicine for two academic years (1912/13, 1913/14). He was elected rector of the university in 1926/27.

(Major works: On the developmental disorders of the heart. Bp. 1885.; Data on congenital heart conditions. Bp., 1890.; Comparative studies on bacillar pseudotuberculoses. Bp. 1893.; On diphtheric colds of children. Bp. 1895.; Studies on the cause of pig pest and pest septicaemia (pig cholera and pig pest). Bp. 1897.; Bacteriology. Bp. 1899.; On the pest, with special respect to its bacteriology. B. 1900.; Studies on variations of anthrax bacillus and the reasons of its becoming less virulent. Eger. 1911.; Pathology I-II. Edited by Béla Szappanyos. Bp. 1922.1925.; The memory of regular member Ferenc Tangl. Bp. 1924.; Die Bakteriophagie vornehmlich auf Grund eigener Untersuchungen. Jena. 1925.; Elements of the science of infection and immunity. Bp. 1936.; A sketch of general pathology. Bp. 1939. /co-authors István Went and Kálmán Sántha/