Hallier, Ernst Hans

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Hallier, Ernst Hans

(b. Hamburg, Germany, 15 November 1831; d. Dachau, Germany, 21 Decermber 1904)

botany, parasitology.

Hallier began his studies in 1848 at the botanical garden in Jena, which he left in 1851 for Erfurt, Charlottenburg, and Berlin. In 1855 he commenced botanical and philosophical studies at the universities of Berlin, Jena, and Göttingen. He received his doctorate at Jena in 1858 and became an assistant to Matthias Schleiden. Following the completion of his dissertation, De geometricis plantarum rationibus (1860), he was appointed assistant professor. He published numerous works on the relationships between plant parasites and human health.

According to Hallier, fungi were the causative agents of cholera, exanthematous typhus, typhoid, measles, smallpox, gonorrhea, syphilis, and other diseases. These fungi supposedly took various forms: Leptothrix, Mycothrix, Micrococcus, Cryptococcus, Arthrococcus, and so on. For example, the fungus responsible for syphilis, Coniothecium, Mucor, could be found in the shape of Cladosporium, Mucor, Penicillium, and Micrococcus. The cocci of cowpox would yield the fungus Eurotium herbariorum; furthermore, the micrococci of enteric fever (typhoid) supposedly constituted a stage of Rhizopus nigricans and those of gonorrhea a stage of Coniothecium.

Hallier isolated these microorganisms from human pathological fluids by means of his isolation device (“Isolir-apparat”) and placed them in culture media (“Cultur-apparat”). Yet he did not take sufficient precautions, and all his cultures were in reality infested with the spores of common molds (Penicillium, Aspergillus) from the air. Oskar Brefeld wittily summarized Hallier’s research with the statement “From it emerge only nonsense and Penicillium glaucum”.

Hallier’s assertions were quickly criticized by such contemporary scientists as the mycologist Anton de Bary (1868), with whom he conducted a polemic, and the bacteriologist Ferdinand Cohn (1872), who showed that Hallier’s culture experiments were without the slightest scientific value. His works were quickly forgotten, and in the last years of his life he devoted himself to the study of aesthetics.

Hallier’s work is only of historical interest today. His sole merit is having been one of the first to maintain that infectious diseases are due to pathogenic microorganisms—which he did not succeed in isolating. In 1869 he founded an important journal, Zeitschrift für Parasitenkunde which is still published.


I. Original Works. Hallier’s writings include De cycadeis quibusdam fossilibus in regione Apoldensi repertis (Jena, 1858), his botanical thesis; De geomatricis plantarum rationibus (Jena, 1860), his philosophical thesis; “Über einen pflanzlichen Parasiten auf dem Epithelium bei Diphteritis,” in Botanische Zeitung,23 (1865), 144–146; “Über Leptothrix buccalis,ibid., 181–183; Die pflanzlichen Parasiten des menschlichen Körpers (Leipzig, 1866); Das Cholrea-Contagium. Botanische Untersuchungen Aerzten und Naturforschern mitgeteilt (Leipzig, 1867); Gährungserscheinungen. Untersuchung über Gährung Fäulnis und Verwesung mit Berücksichtigung der Miasmen und Contagien sowie der Desinfection (Leipzig, 1867); Parasitologische Untersuchungen bezüglich auf die pflanzlichen Organismen bei Masern, Hungertyphus, Darmtyphus, Blattern, Kuhpocken, Schafpocken, Cholera nostras... (Leipzig, 1868); Phytopathologie. Die Krankheiten der Culturgewächse (Leipzig 1868); “Researches Into the Nature of Vegetable Parasitic Organisms,” in Medical Times and Gazette, 2 (1868), 222–223; “Über die Parasiten der Ruhr,” in Zeitschrift für Parasitenkunde, I (1869), 71–75; “Die “Parasiten der Infectionskrankheiten,” ibid., 117, 191; 2 (1870), 67, 113; 3 (1872), 7, 157; 4 (1873), 56; “Beweis dass der Micrococcus der Infectionskrankheiten keimfähig und von höheren Pilzformen abhängig ist und Widerlegung der leichtsinnigen Angriff des Herrn Collegen Bary zu Halle,” ibid.,2 (1870) 1–20; “Beweis dass der Cryptococus Keimfähig und von höheren Pilzformen abhängig ist und Widerlegung der Ansichten der Bary’schen Schule über die Bierhefe,” ibid.,3 (1872); 217–244; and Die Parasiten der Infectionskrankheiten bei Menscher, Thieren und Pflanzen. I, Die Plastiden der niederen Pflanzen (Leipzig 1878).

II. Secondary Literature. The only biographical material consists of a few short accounts in various biographical dictionaries. Hallier’s work is discussed in W. Bulloch, The History of Bacteriology (London, 1938), pp. 178, 188–192, 195, 198, 219, 291, 321–322, 371; and C. J Clemedson, “Penicillium syphiliticum och nägra andra teorier om syfilis orsak och uppkomst,” in Medicinhistorik ärsbok (1968), pp. 158–170, which discusses Hallier’s ideas on syphilis.

Jean ThÉodoridÈs