Societas Physico-Medica

The five founding members of the
‘Physics and Medical Society’,
founded in 1849/50 in Würzburg
(Institute for the History of Medicine, University of Würzburg)

The Physics and Medical Society was founded on 2 December 1849, primarily on the initiative of anatomist Albert Koelliker, pathologist Rudolf Virchow, pharmacologist and scientific organizer Franz von Rinecker, and clinical chemist Johann Joseph von Scherer. At the inaugural meeting of the ‘Societas Physico-Medica’ on 8 December 1849, Albert Koelliker was elected as its first President. (see also University Archiv)

The Society followed the tradition of Ignaz Döllinger's Zoological and Physiological Society (1803 to 1823), and in 1853 it incorporated the Würzburg Philosophical and Medical Society, which had been founded in 1827. Following the example of the Society of Natural Sciences in Zürich, it attempted to again bring medicine and natural sciences closer together, away from the error-fraught paths of medicine during the Romantic era. From the outset the aim of the Physics and Medical Society was to promote all medical and natural science disciplines, to research the “situation in Franconia in the realm of natural history and medicine”, to stimulate scientific activity among the resident doctors, and to give students the opportunity through public lectures to ‘eavesdrop on their teachers as they conducted their research’. From 1850 onwards the Physico-Medica presented its findings in its own publications, in which valuable articles can be found, such as the 1896 report on the discovery of X-rays.

Many prominent scientists – including several Nobel laureates – were members of the Society. In 1880, the Physics and Medical Society entrusted its extensive library holdings to the University of Würzburg Library. From 1929 the Society has awarded the ‘Adolf Fick Prize’ from a foundation set up by the sons of the physiologist Adolf Fick.

Continuing the tradition of the Physics and Medical Society, monthly scientific meetings are held during term time, on prominent interdisciplinary themes. These meetings are accessible to members of the public. To pursue its goals, the Physico-Medica also needs your participation and support. By joining the Physics and Medical Society in Würzburg, you can help one of the oldest scientific societies to keep going. All members are kept informed in writing about the dates of scientific events.