Frey, Maximilian Ruppert Franz von

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Frey, Maximilian Ruppert Franz von

(b. Salzburg, Austria, 16 November 1852; d. Würzburg, Germany, 25 January 1932)


Frey’s father, Carl, was a well-to-do merchant in Salzburg. His mother, Anna Gugg, was the daughter of a high-ranking Austrian official. Frey began his studies in medicine at Vienna, where Ernst Brucke was then teaching physiology. From there he went to Leipzig and Freiburg. As early as 1876, in Carl Ludwig’s physiology laboratory at Leipzig, he began examining the functioning of the vasodilating and vasoconstrictive nerves in the salivary glands. In 1877 he graduated from Leipzig. Frey returned in 1880 to Ludwig’s laboratory and remained there until 1897. He became a lecturer in physiology at Leipzig in 1882 and in 1891 was made associate professor. In 1897 he accepted a professorship of physiology at Zurich and in 1899 at Würzburg, where he remained until his death.

Frey was charming but reserved and modest and of a critical temperament. He was musical (he played the flute) and loved the Alps. He possessed tremendous scientific imagination and great ingenuity in the techniques and variation of physiological experiments.

During the first period of his career (1880–1888) Frey was concerned primarily with muscle physiology; during the second period (1889–1892) with the mechanics of circulation, e.g., through analysis of pulse and blood pressure; and during the third period (1892–1932) he became a pioneer in the investigation of the “lower senses” i.e., the sensory organs of the skin and “deep sensibility.”

In muscle physiology he worked on, among other things, a comparison of the extent of a single contraction and of tetanus, including when under a load. Together with Max Gruber, Frey discovered the increased oxygen consumption of muscle in the recovery phase (1880). He investigated the role of lactic acid in muscle metabolism, the influence of inorganic ions on muscle contraction and membrane permeability, and heat production in muscle. He built an interesting apparatus (1885) for perfusing a surviving, isolated muscle.

In circulatory physiology Frey developed distortion-free recording and measuring units which helped him to answer questions concerning the course of pulse curves, reflection phenomena, and the inertia of recording levers.

From 1894 Frey was particularly preoccupied with the physiology of the skin senses and found, identified, and localized the pressure points and sensory organs for heat and cold, using appropriate methods and working on a quantitative basis (irritating hair, prickling bristle). He examined the thresholds, the summation, the adequate and inadequate stimulation of the sensory receptors, the nature of itching, the sensation of vibration (1915), and tickling (1922).

Frey proved the existence of sensory muscle receptors for the development of strength and the changing of the muscle length, thus laying the foundations for the understanding of the so-called deep sensibility (from 1913).

His laboratory produced outstanding clinicians and researchers, such as L. Krehl, P. Hoffmann, H. Rein, H. Schriever, E. Wöhlisch, H. Strughold, and F. Schellong.


I. Original Works. Among Frey’s writings are Die Untersuchung des Pulses und ihre Ergebnisse in gesunden und kranken Zuständen (Berlin, 1892); “Physiologie der Haut,” in E. Lesser, ed., Enzyklopädie der Haut- und Geschlechtskrankheiten (Leipzig, 1900), pp.387–392; Vorlesungen über Physiologie (Berlin, 1904); “Allgemeine Physiologie der quergestreiften Muskeln,” in Nagels Handbuch der Physiologie, IV (Brunswick, 1909), 427–543; “Allgemeine Muskelmechanik,” in R.A Tigerstedt, ed., Handbuch der physiologischen Methodik, II, pt. 3 (Leipzig, 1911), 87‘119; “Physiologie der Sinnesorgane der menschlichen Haut,” in Ergebnisse der Physiologie, 9 (1910), 351‘368; “Die sensorischen Funktionen der Hunt und der Bewegunugsorgane, “in R. A. Tigerstedt, ed., Handbuch der physiologischen Methodik, III, pt. I (Leipzig, 1914), 1–45; and “Physiologie der Haut,” in J. Jadassohns Handbuch der Haut-und Geschlechtskrankheiten, I, pt. 2 (Berlin, 1929), 1–160, Written with H, Rein.

II. Secondary Literature. See P. Hoffmann, “Die wissenschaftliche Persönlichkeit Max von Freys,” in Verhandlungen der Physikalisch-medizinischen Gesellschaft zu Würzburg, n.s. 57 (1932), 56–66. Obituaries are in Zeitschrift für Biologie, 92 (1932), i-v; Münchener medizinische Wochenschrift, 79 (1932), 315–316; E. Wöhlisch, in Verhandlungen der Physikalisch-medizinischen Gesellschaft zu würzburg, n.s. 57 (1932), 52–56. Obituaries are in Zeit- schrift fur Biologie, 92 (1932), i-v; Münchener medizinische Wochenschrift, 79 (1932), 315–316; E. Wöhlisch, in Verhandlungen der physikalisch-medizinischen Gesellschaft zu Würrzbug, n.s. 57 (1932), 52–56; H. Rein, in Klinische wochenschrift, 11 (1932), 439; and in Ergebnisse der Physiologie, 35 (1933), 1–9, with inaccurate bibliography.

Assessments are H. Schriever, in Neue deutsche Biographie, V (Berlin, 1961), 419–420; K. E. Rothschuh, in Geschichte der Physiologie (Gottingen–Berlin–Heidelberg, 1953), pp.156–15 with portrait; and I. Fischer, Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Ärzte der letzten 50 Jahre, I (Berlin–Vienna, 1932), 448.

K. E. Rothschuh