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Historic Public Health Books

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This etext was transcribed by Jane Duff and proofed by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk from the 1888 Cassell & Company edition.

Justus Friedrich Karl Hecker was one of three generations of distinguished professors of medicine. His father, August Friedrich Hecker, a most industrious writer, first practised as a physician in Frankenhausen, and in 1790 was appointed Professor of Medicine at the University of Erfurt. In 1805 he was called to the like professorship at the University of Berlin. He died at Berlin in 1811.

Justus Friedrich Karl Hecker was born at Erfurt in January, 1795. He went, of course--being then ten years old--with his father to Berlin in 1805, studied at Berlin in the Gymnasium and University, but interrupted his studies at the age of eighteen to fight as a volunteer in the war for a renunciation of Napoleon and all his works. After Waterloo he went back to his studies, took his doctor's degree in 1817 with a treatise on the "Antiquities of Hydrocephalus," and became privat-docent in the Medical Faculty of the Berlin University. His inclination was strong from the first towards the historical side of inquiries into Medicine. This caused him to undertake a "History of Medicine," of which the first volume appeared in 1822. It obtained rank for him at Berlin as Extraordinary Professor of the History of Medicine. This office was changed into an Ordinary professorship of the same study in 1834, and Hecker held that office until his death in 1850.

The office was created for a man who had a special genius for this form of study. It was delightful to himself, and he made it delightful to others. He is regarded as the founder of historical pathology. He studied disease in relation to the history of man, made his study yield to men outside his own profession an important chapter in the history of civilisation, and even took into account physical phenomena upon the surface of the globe as often affecting the movement and character of epidemics.

The account of "The Black Death" here translated by Dr. Babington was Hecker's first important work of this kind. It was published in 1832, and was followed in the same year by his account of "The Dancing Mania." The books here given are the two that first gave Hecker a wide reputation. Many other such treatises followed, among them, in 1865, a treatise on the "Great Epidemics of the Middle Ages." Besides his "History of Medicine," which, in its second volume, reached into the fourteenth century, and all his smaller treatises, Hecker wrote a large number of articles in Encyclopaedias and Medical Journals. Professor J.F.K. Hecker was, in a more interesting way, as busy as Professor A.F. Hecker, his father, had been. He transmitted the family energies to an only son, Karl von Hecker, born in 1827, who distinguished himself greatly as a Professor of Midwifery, and died in 1882.

Benjamin Guy Babington, the translator of these books of Hecker's, belonged also to a family in which the study of Medicine has passed from father to son, and both have been writers. B.G. Babington was the son of Dr. William Babington, who was physician to Guy's Hospital for some years before 1811, when the extent of his private practice caused him to retire. He died in 1833. His son, Benjamin Guy Babington, was educated at the Charterhouse, saw service as a midshipman, served for seven years in India, returned to England, graduated as physician at Cambridge in 1831. He distinguished himself by inquiries into the cholera epidemic in 1832, and translated these pieces of Hecker's in 1833, for publication by the Sydenham Society. He afterwards translated Hecker's other treatises on epidemics of the Middle Ages. Dr. B.G. Babington was Physician to Guy's Hospital from 1840 to 1855, and was a member of the Medical Council of the General Board of Health. He died on the 8th of April, 1866.


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