The Pettenkofer School of Public Health Munich (PSPH) bundles public health activities in Munich. The PSPH consists of three partners: the Medical Faculty of LMU Munich, Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) and the Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority. This network is committed to the continuous improvement of public health research and health promotion and supports the development and transfer of new scientific methods into practice.
At the Medical Faculty of LMU Munich, the Institute for Medical Information Processing, Biometry and Epidemiology has a broad methodological expertise in conducting observational studies and randomized controlled trials as well as in the further development and application of new epidemiological and statistical methods.
The Bavarian Health and Food Safety Authority is the central expert authority for consumer health protection in Bavaria. As an interdisciplinary authority, the LGL performs a wide range of tasks: from risk analysis and communication, laboratory samples, scientific research projects to training for the public health service.
Helmholtz Zentrum München as part of the Helmholtz Association is the German Research Center for Environmental Health. Its research focuses on the emergence of widespread diseases in the context of environmental factors, lifestyle and individual genetic disposition and the development of new approaches for prevention, diagnosis and therapy. The HMGU focuses particularly on research on diabetes mellitus, allergies and chronic lung diseases.
About Max von Pettenkofer
Max von Pettenkofer (1818-1901) is the namesake of the Pettenkofer School of Public Health (PSPH). He is considered one of the founders of scientific hygiene and modern public health research. The physician, pharmacist, and chemist did not consider health solely as a medical problem, but also as a social and economic problem. This was a revolutionary view in his time.
In 1847, Pettenkofer was appointed professor of medicinal chemistry at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich. At that time, he was just 19 years old. Some years later, Pettenkofer even became rector of LMU Munich. In 1865, also in Munich, he took over the first German professorship for hygiene and built the first institute of hygiene from 1876 to 1879.
Today's sewerage and drinking water supply system in Munich go back on a large part to initiatives by Max von Pettenkofer. When cholera broke out in the city in 1854, the scientist was commissioned to study the ways in which the disease spread. He assumed that the poor hygienic conditions were mainly responsible for the outbreak. At his suggestion, the city of Munich began the construction of an extensive sewage system, which is still in operation today.
His dispute with Robert Koch is famous. Contrary to his colleague from Berlin, Max von Pettenkofer did not believe that cholera spread via the recently discovered comma bacillus. To undermine his point of view, he even drank a solution with the pathogen in front of witnesses on October 7, 1892. He survived and got away with diarrhoea. It is unclear whether Pettenkofer was simply lucky or whether an earlier contact with the pathogen had made him resistant. Another theory is that his students may have secretly boiled the solution in advance to kill the pathogen.
Despite this error, scientists from all over the world visited Pettenkofer's institute to learn from his work in the 19th century. His concepts and methods thus shaped the development of public health in many countries. The founding of the renowned Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health - one of the leading academic public health institutions in the USA - is partly due to a visit to Pettenkofer’s institute in Munich.