Goltz, Friedrich Leopold

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Goltz, Friedrich Leopold

(b. Posen, Germany [now Poznan, Poland], 14 August 1834; d. Strasbourg, France, 4 May 1902)

physiology, encephalology.

Goltz’s father, Heinrich Goltz, a police inspector in Posen and Danzig, died when Friedrich was twelve. His mother, Leopoldine Friederike von Blumenberg, then moved the family to Thorn (now Torun, Poland), where an uncle, Bogumil Goltz, lived. A philosopher, natural scientist, and author, Bogumil Goltz came to have great influence on Friedrich.

Goltz started his medical studies in 1853 at Königsberg. There he attended Hermann Helmholtz’ lectures on physiology and general pathology. He was not inclined toward Helmholtz’ physical approach but leaned instead toward analysis of the morphological basis of physiological functions and the interpretation of simple observations and animal surgery to arrive at solutions of physiological questions. His doctoral dissertation (20 January 1858) De spatii sensu cutis, an investigation of the sense of touch, points in that direction. After two years of surgical training under Ernst Wagner, during which he acquired the techniques for his later brain operations, Goltz was appointed prosector in anatomy at Königsberg, under August Müller. He then became extraordinary professor of anatomy in 1865.

In 1868 Goltz married Agnes Simon, the daughter of Samuel Simon, city councillor in Königsberg. In 1870 he succeeded A. W. Volkmann as professor of physiology in Halle and two years later he was called to the new German university in Strasbourg, the former Faculté de Médecine. He was appointed rector of the university in 1888 and constantly concerned himself with maintaining good relations between the German and French populations of Alsace. He was spirited and witty, a popular teacher, and a great lover of animals. Among his colleagues were such gifted people as J. G. Gaule, Joseph von Mering, Jacques Loeb, Albrecht Bethe, A. Bickel, and J. Richard Ewald. Goltz died of progressive muscle paralysis, asthma, and sclerosis.

The principal subject of Goltz’s research was the study of reflex phenomena, particularly in the spinal cord of the frog. Later he was concerned primarily with the analysis of localization phenomena in the brain. He originated a series of tests which for a long time were generally used in university lectures. The Goltz Kochversuch (“cooking test” 1860) called for the slow heating of a spinal (decerebrated) frog in a water bath. Because of the gradual increase in stimulation there was no reaction, and Goltz argued that its absence refuted E. F. W. Pflüger’s concept of the Rückemarksseele (“spinal cord soul”). His Klopfversuch (“tapping test,” 1862) also became famous: When the abdominal wall of a frog is tapped, the heart stops momentarily because of the reflex vagus effect. Goltz next investigated the nerve mechanism of frogs during copulation (Umklammerungsreflex, or “embracing reflex,” 1865). In the same year he demonstrated the famous “croaking reflex” (Quakreflex) by stroking the skin on the back of spinal frogs. He reported his findings in Beiträge zur Lehre von den Funktionen des Nervensystems des Frosches.

In the following years Goltz analyzed the functions of the labyrinth of the inner ear in frogs and pigeons, thereby succeeding in differentiating the functions of the nervus octavus into hearing and equilibrium. He was the first to recognize the importance of the semicircular canals for maintaining equilibrium. In 1874 Goltz proved the existence of reflex centers in dogs for erection, evacuation, and parturition.

Next Goltz concentrated on the study of the functions of the cerebrum (1876). On the basis of tests by Pierre Flourens, Gustav von Fritsch, Julius Hitzig, and Daniel Ferrier, he attempted to obtain, by means of careful surgery, information about the localization or local occurrence of cerebral functions in the center of the brain. At first he partially destroyed portions of the cerebrum, but in later experiments he was able to remove entire lobes, and even a hemisphere. Since he succeeded, with scrupulous care, in keeping the animals alive for several years, he was able to differentiate between the initial irritative symptoms produced by surgery and definite long-term results. He thus arrived at the concept of a reciprocal interchangeability, and even equivalence, of cerebral parts without completely rejecting the localization theory. A dog whose cerebrum had been removed was without intellect, memory, and intelligence.

Regarding animal research as unavoidable, and even essential, Goltz in 1883 protested the antivivisectionist movement. He wrote about his cerebral tests in Über die Verrichtungen des Grosshirns (1881) and produced a final report on the dog without a cerebrum in 1892. His research was carried on particularly by C. S. Sherrington and Harvey Cushing.


I. Original Works. Goltz’s books are De spatii sensu cutis (Königsberg, 1858); Beiträge zur Lehre von den Funktionen des Nervensystems des Frosches (Berlin, 1869); Über die Verrichtungen des Grosshirns. Gesammelte Abhandlungen (Bonn, 1881); and Wider die Humanaster. Rechtfertigung eines Vivisektors (Strasbourg, 1883).

His publications in journals include “Beiträge zur Lehre von den Funktionen des Rückenmarks der Frösche,” in Künigsberger medizinische Jahrbuch2 (1860), 189–226; “Über Reflexionen vom und zum Herzen, “ibid, 3 (1862), 271–274; “Über die physiologische Bedeutung der Bogengänge des Ohrlabyrinths,” in Pflügers Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und der Tiere, 3 (1870), 172–192; “Über die Funktionen des Lendenmarks des Hundes,” ibid. 8 (1874), 460–498; “Über den Einfluss des Nervensystems auf die Vorgänge während der Schwangerschaft und des Gebäraktes,” ibid, 9 (1874), 552–565; and “Über die Verrichtungen des Grosshirns I-VII,: ibid., 13 (1876), 1–44; 14 (1876), 412–443; 20 (1879), 1–54: 26 (1881), 1–49; 34 (1884), 451–505; 42 (1888), 419–467; 51 (1892), 570–614.

II. Secondary Literature. Obituaries are A. Bickel, “Friedrich Golrz †,” in Deutsche medizinische Wochenschrift, 28 (1902), 403; J. R. Ewald, “Friedrich Goltz,” in Pflüger’s Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und die Tiere. 94 (1903), 1–64, with portrait and complete bibliography; and Heinrich Kraft. “Friedrich Leopold Goltz,” in Münchener medizinische Wochenschrift, 49 (1902), 965–970.

Shorter biographies are D. Trincker, in Neue deutsche Biographie, VI (Berlin, 1964), 636–637, with short bibliography; Biographische Lexikon der hervorragenden Ärzte aller Zeiten und Völker, 2nd ed., II (Berlin-Vienna, 1930), 792–793; and K. E. Rothschuh, Geschichte der Physiologie (Berling-Göttingen-Heidelberg, 1953), esp. pp. 186–187, with portrait and list of students.

K. E. Rothschuh