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Johann Lucas Schoenlein was one of the most influential clinicians in Central Europe during the first half of the 19th century. However, today it is still not easy to retrace, how exactly he became such a celebrity, because with the exception of his doctoral thesis, all he published were two letters in a scientific journal, not even four pages in total.1 2 Until recently, almost all we knew came from manuscripts, books and letters of his students. Nonetheless, these documents speak out for him: One of them, the famous surgeon Theodor Billroth, wrote, “Those, who felt spiritually close to Schoenlein raved and became enthusiastic about him and, through him, about medicine”.3 Wilhelm Griesinger, one of the founders of clinical psychiatry, described his impressions as follows: “It seemed to me that he knew everything; and that he could do everything at the bedside!”.4 Within the last years, two parts of his bequest of scientific and private correspondence comprising more than 1500 letters and notes have been rediscovered by chance and meanwhile partially edited.5 6 This now allows a detailed insight into the life and scientific network of this clinician, about whom his most famous disciple, Rudolf Virchow said: “Thus he remained a colleague to his colleagues, a friend to his friends; thus he became a model of true humanity and liberality, in the correct classical sense of the word. Nothing human was foreign to him”.7 Virchows obituary, which is still the most detailed biography about Schoenlein, has also been translated into English.8
Schoenlein was born in 1793 as the only son of a rope maker in the romantic old Franconian city of Bamberg. After completing his medical education in Landshut and Würzburg, he served as Professor and Head of Medicine at the …
Handling editor Josef S Smolen
Contributors All authors have contributed to the conception and design of the work, the acquisition and interpretation of data. All authors revised it critically for important intellectual content and gave final approval of the version published. They agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.
Funding This work was supported by an unrestricted educational grant from AbbVie Deutschland GmbH to the Rheumazentrum Erlangen, Germany.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.