Heinrich Ludwig Attenhoffer (1783-1856)

Lymphatologia; oder, Abhandlung über das lymphatische System und dessen Leiden

Lymphatologia; oder, Abhandlung über das lymphatische System und dessen Leiden

Heinrich Ludwig Attenhoffer was born on April 2, 1783 in Lucerne, Switzerland. He completed his medical degree in Freiburg, Germany (1802~1805). Attenhoffer further pursued training from the Vienna Medical School and took a position as a military doctor. Part of his life was spent in St. Peterburg, Russian, where he worked as a hospital doctor focusing on the treatment of syphilis.

His work Lymphatologia; oder, Abhandlung über das lymphatische System und dessen Leiden” was published in 1808 as a tribute to his friend from his Frieburg days, Lorenz Oken. Attenhofer divides the book into five major sections and 289 minor subsections. The first three sections elaborate on the importance of the lymphatic system, its location and structure throughout the body, and the venous drainage system. The last two sections describe clinical cases and treatment of different lymphatic disease. Attenhoffer is not the first person to describe lymphatic system but it is a good overview of the state of knowledge for its time.

Many diseases have complications on lymphatic system. In case of blockage and inflammation, the vessels would become visible, filled with water. Attenhoffer described lymphatic system as the weakest but most active part of growing children. He warned against the damage of the lymphatic system during wound surgery.

Attenhoffer also published a work named “ Medizinische Topographie der Haupt-und Residenzstadt St.Petersburg” in 1817 detailing the medical geography of St. Peterburg at the time. His professional life was not limited to the medicine; he also held a governmental position as magistrate, responsible for the reform of the Lucerne poor law. He was involved in the Santatskollegium and Sanitatsko mission advocating for public health improvement, which demonstrated his contribution to the well-being of general public from a broader and structural level.

Based on research done by Tianyi Zhang, class of 2025 as part of her assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2021-2022. Edited by Andrew I Spielman.

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