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Pirquet von Cesenatico Papers 1903-1926
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Biography

Biographical Note

Clemens Peter Freiherr von Pirquet was the progeny of a Lower Austrian noble family, the term Freiherr corresponding to English baron. He was creator of a classical diagnostic test for tuberculosis in which tuberculin is applied to a superficial abrasion of the skin of the arm.

As a newly fledged physician he became an assistant under Theodor Escherich at the Children's clinic in Vienna. He achieved such fame that he was invited to America to become professor of pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University for two years. In 1910 he returned to Europe to take over the chair of pediatrics at Breslau. The following year, 1911, he was appointed Escherich's successor in Vienna, holding that tenure until his tragic death on February 28, 1929.

Von Pirquet primarily devoted himself to bacteriology and immunology. In 1906 he noticed that patients who had received injections of horse serum or smallpox vaccine usually had quicker, more severe reactions to second injections. While studying the symptoms of cowpox vaccination, he also developed a new theory about the incubation time of infectious diseases and the formation of antibodies. In 1909 he published the results of a series of tuberculin tests of inhabitants of Vienna that showed that 70 percent of the children tested had been infected by tuberculosis by the age of ten, and more than 90 percent at the age of fourteen.

Von Pirquet also made important contributions on infant nutrition. In 1919 he organised the American Children's Relief and extended the pediatric clinic and worked for the education of physicians and nurses.