Frank, Johann Peter

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The German physician, Johann Peter Frank (17451821) studied at Heidelberg and Strasburg, was a professor at Göttingen and Pavia, and eventually became director of the Allegemeines Krankenhaus and a professor of medicine in Vienna. He also taught in many other European cities, including St. Petersburg, and was physician to Czar Alexander I from 1805 to 1808. Early in his career he began working on a massive treatise, System einer vollständigen medicinischen Polizey (A complete system of medical policy). This occupied him throughout his life and was published in nine volumes from 1779 to 1827. It was the first thorough treatise on all aspects of public health and hygiene, covering in detail the principals and practice of an orderly method to keep human settlements clean. In addition, the treatise documented existing laws and proposed further regulations regarding conduct that affected people's health.

Frank's System dealt with water supply and sanitation, food safety, school health, sexual hygiene, maternal and child welfare, regulation of aspects of public behavior such as the conduct of teachers and prostitutes, and the compiling of statistical records of hospitals. Hospital records that were compiled using Frank's methods enabled the Hungarian obstetrician Ignaz Semmelweiss (18181865) to demonstrate the relationship of puerperal sepsis to a lack of adequate personal hygiene by birth attendants.

Frank is without doubt one of the most influential figures in the early history of public health and community medicine. In addition to his System, Frank wrote a seven-volume textbook of internal medicine and made important clinical discoveries, including the distinction between diabetes mellitus and diabetes insipidus.

John M. Last

(see also: Community Health; History of Public Health; Social Medicine )