Gerhard Armauer Hansen

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Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen
Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen.jpg
Gerhard Armauer Hansen
Born(1841-07-29)29 July 1841
Bergen, Norway
Died12 February 1912(1912-02-12) (aged 70)
Florø, Norway
Alma mater University of Oslo
Awards Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olav
Scientific career
Fields Epidemiology
Bust of Dr. Armauer Hansen, Botanical garden, University of Bergen, Norway Armauer Hansen - Jo Visdal - Botanisk hage - Bergen 3.jpg
Bust of Dr. Armauer Hansen, Botanical garden, University of Bergen, Norway

Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen (29 July 1841 – 12 February 1912) was a Norwegian physician, remembered for his identification of the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae in 1873 as the causative agent of leprosy. [1] [2]

Norwegians people

Norwegians are a North Germanic ethnic group native to Norway. They share a common culture and speak the Norwegian language. Norwegian people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and South Africa.

Bacteria A domain of prokaryotes – single celled organisms without a nucleus

Bacteria are a type of biological cell. They constitute a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a number of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals. Bacteria were among the first life forms to appear on Earth, and are present in most of its habitats. Bacteria inhabit soil, water, acidic hot springs, radioactive waste, and the deep portions of Earth's crust. Bacteria also live in symbiotic and parasitic relationships with plants and animals. Most bacteria have not been characterised, and only about half of the bacterial phyla have species that can be grown in the laboratory. The study of bacteria is known as bacteriology, a branch of microbiology.

<i>Mycobacterium leprae</i> species of bacterium; form of Leprosy

Mycobacterium leprae, also known as Hansen’s bacillus spirilly, mostly found in warm tropical countries, is a bacterium that causes leprosy. It is an intracellular, pleomorphic, acid-fast, pathogenic bacterium. M. leprae is an aerobic bacillus surrounded by the characteristic waxy coating unique to mycobacteria. In size and shape, it closely resembles Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Due to its thick waxy coating, M. leprae stains with a carbol fuchsin rather than with the traditional Gram stain. The culture takes several weeks to mature.



Hansen was born in Bergen, Norway and attended the Bergen Cathedral School. He worked at Rikshospitalet in Christiania (now Oslo) and as a doctor in Lofoten. In 1868 Hansen returned to Bergen to study leprosy while working at Lungegård Hospital (Lungegårdshospitalet) with Daniel Cornelius Danielssen, a noted expert. [3]

Bergen City and municipality in Western Norway, Norway

Bergen, historically Bjørgvin, is a city and municipality in Hordaland on the west coast of Norway. At the end of the first quarter of 2018, the municipality's population was 280,216, and the Bergen metropolitan region has about 420,000 inhabitants. Bergen is the second-largest city in Norway. The municipality covers 465 square kilometres (180 sq mi) and is on the peninsula of Bergenshalvøyen. The city centre and northern neighbourhoods are on Byfjorden, 'the city fjord', and the city is surrounded by mountains; Bergen is known as the 'city of seven mountains'. Many of the extra-municipal suburbs are on islands. Bergen is the administrative centre of Hordaland, and consists of eight boroughs: Arna, Bergenhus, Fana, Fyllingsdalen, Laksevåg, Ytrebygda, Årstad, and Åsane.

Bergen Cathedral School

Bergen Cathedral School is an upper secondary school in Bergen, Norway. Located in the city centre, next to Bergen Cathedral, the school has about 850 students, 95 full-time teachers, and 5 administration personnel, including the headmaster, Lise Hårklau Holsen.

Oslo Place in Østlandet, Norway

Oslo is the capital and most populous city of Norway. It constitutes both a county and a municipality. Founded in the year 1040 as Ánslo, and established as a kaupstad or trading place in 1048 by Harald Hardrada, the city was elevated to a bishopric in 1070 and a capital under Haakon V of Norway around 1300. Personal unions with Denmark from 1397 to 1523 and again from 1536 to 1814 reduced its influence, and with Sweden from 1814 to 1905 it functioned as a co-official capital. After being destroyed by a fire in 1624, during the reign of King Christian IV, a new city was built closer to Akershus Fortress and named Christiania in the king's honour. It was established as a municipality (formannskapsdistrikt) on 1 January 1838. The city's name was spelled Kristiania between 1877 and 1897 by state and municipal authorities. In 1925 the city was renamed Oslo.

Leprosy was regarded as largely hereditary or otherwise miasmic in origin. Hansen concluded on the basis of epidemiological studies that leprosy was a specific disease with a specific cause. [4] In 1870–71 Hansen travelled to Bonn and Vienna to gain the training necessary for him to prove his hypothesis. [5] In 1873, he announced the discovery of Mycobacterium leprae in the tissues of all sufferers, although he did not identify them as bacteria, and received little support. [5] The discovery was made with a "new and better" microscope. [6]

Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution and determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations.

Disease abnormal condition negatively affecting organisms

A disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure or function of part or all of an organism, and that is not due to any external injury. Diseases are often construed as medical conditions that are associated with specific symptoms and signs. A disease may be caused by external factors such as pathogens or by internal dysfunctions. For example, internal dysfunctions of the immune system can produce a variety of different diseases, including various forms of immunodeficiency, hypersensitivity, allergies and autoimmune disorders.

Bonn Place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

The Federal City of Bonn is a city on the banks of the Rhine in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, with a population of over 300,000. About 24 km (15 mi) south-southeast of Cologne, Bonn is in the southernmost part of the Rhine-Ruhr region, Germany's largest metropolitan area, with over 11 million inhabitants. It is famously known as the birthplace of Ludwig Van Beethoven in 1770. Beethoven spent his childhood and teenage years in Bonn.

In 1879 Hansen gave tissue samples to Albert Neisser, who then successfully stained the bacteria and announced his findings in 1880, claiming to have discovered the disease-causing organism. There was some dispute between Neisser and Hansen, Hansen as discoverer of the bacillus and Neisser as identifier of it as the etiological agent. Neisser tried to downplay the assistance of Hansen. Hansen's claim was weakened by his failure to produce a pure microbiological culture in an artificial medium, or to prove that the rod-shaped organisms were infectious. Further Hansen had attempted to infect at least one female patient without consent and although no damage was caused, that case ended in court and Hansen lost his post at the hospital. [7]

Staining auxiliary technique used in microscopy to enhance contrast in the microscopic image. Stains and dyes are frequently used in biology and medicine to highlight structures in biological tissues for viewing, often with the aid of different microscopes

Staining is an auxiliary technique used in microscopy to enhance contrast in the microscopic image. Stains and dyes are frequently used in biology and medicine to highlight structures in biological tissues for viewing, often with the aid of different microscopes. Stains may be used to define and examine bulk tissues, cell populations, or organelles within individual cells.

Etiology is the study of causation, or origination. The word is derived from the Greek αἰτιολογία, aitiología, "giving a reason for". More completely, etiology is the study of the causes, origins, or reasons behind the way that things are, or the way they function, or it can refer to the causes themselves. The word is commonly used in medicine, and in philosophy, but also in physics, psychology, government, geography, spatial analysis, theology, and biology, in reference to the causes or origins of various phenomena.

Microbiological culture multiplying microorganisms by letting them reproduce in culture media

A microbiological culture, or microbial culture, is a method of multiplying microbial organisms by letting them reproduce in predetermined culture medium under controlled laboratory conditions. Microbial cultures are foundational and basic diagnostic methods used extensively as a research tool in molecular biology.

Hansen remained medical officer for leprosy in Norway and it was through his efforts that the leprosy acts of 1877 and 1885 were passed, leading to a steady decline of the disease in Norway from 1,800 known cases in 1875 to just 575 cases in 1901. His distinguished work was recognized at the International Leprosy Congress held at Bergen in 1909. [8]

Hansen had suffered from syphilis since the 1860s but died of heart disease. He was an atheist. [9] [10]

Syphilis sexually transmitted infection

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The signs and symptoms of syphilis vary depending in which of the four stages it presents. The primary stage classically presents with a single chancre but there may be multiple sores. In secondary syphilis, a diffuse rash occurs, which frequently involves the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. There may also be sores in the mouth or vagina. In latent syphilis, which can last for years, there are few or no symptoms. In tertiary syphilis, there are gummas, neurological problems, or heart symptoms. Syphilis has been known as "the great imitator" as it may cause symptoms similar to many other diseases.

Cardiovascular disease class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a class of diseases that involve the heart or blood vessels. CVD includes coronary artery diseases (CAD) such as angina and myocardial infarction. Other CVDs include stroke, heart failure, hypertensive heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, cardiomyopathy, heart arrhythmia, congenital heart disease, valvular heart disease, carditis, aortic aneurysms, peripheral artery disease, thromboembolic disease, and venous thrombosis.


Related Research Articles

Leprosy chronic infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium lepræ and Mycobacterium lepromatosis

Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease (HD), is a long-term infection by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Initially, a person who is infected does not have symptoms and typically remains this way for 5 to 20 years. Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can lead to the loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present.

Daniel Cornelius Danielssen Norwegian dermatologist

Daniel Cornelius Danielssen was a Norwegian physician. He was most noted for his research regarding the causes and treatment of leprosy.

The year 1873 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

Albert Ludwig Sigesmund Neisser was a German physician who discovered the causative agent (pathogen) of gonorrhea, a strain of bacteria that was named in his honour.

The lepromin skin test is used to determine what type of leprosy a person has. It involves the injection of a standardized extract of the inactivated "leprosy bacillus" under the skin. It is not recommended as a primary mode of diagnosis.

Klaus Hanssen was a Norwegian physician and politician for the Liberal Party and the Coalition Party.

Gerhard Gran Norwegian historian and writer

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Eduard Bøckmann Ophthalmologist and inventor

Eduard Bøckmann was a Norwegian American ophthalmologist, physician and inventor.

Leprosy stigma is a type of social stigma, a strong negative feeling towards a person with leprosy relating to their moral status in society. It is also referred to as leprosy-related stigma, leprostigma, and stigma of leprosy. Since ancient times leprosy instilled the practice of fear and avoidance in many societies because of the associated physical disfigurement and lack of understanding behind its cause. Because of the historical trauma the word "leprosy" invokes, the disease is now referred to as Hansen's disease, named after Gerhard Armauer Hansen who discovered Mycobacterium leprae, the bacterial agent that causes Hansen's disease. Those who have suffered from Hansen's disease describe the impact of social stigma as far worse than the physical manifestations despite it being only mildly contagious and pharmacologically curable. This sentiment is echoed by Weis and Ramakrishna, who noted that “the impact of the meaning of the disease may be a greater source of suffering than symptoms of the disease”.

Hans Jacob Grøgaard vicar, writer and father of the Constitution of Norway

Hans Jacob Grøgaard was a Norwegian parish priest and writer. He served as a representative at the Norwegian Constituent Assembly in 1814.

Erik Waaler was a Norwegian professor of medicine.

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History of leprosy

The history of leprosy was traced by geneticists in 2005 through its origins and worldwide distribution using comparative genomics. They determined that leprosy originated in East Africa or the Near East and traveled with humans along their migration routes, including those of trade in goods and slaves. The four strains of M. leprae are based in specific geographic regions. Strain 1 occurs predominantly in East Africa, Asia, and the Pacific region; strain 2 in Ethiopia, Malawi, Nepal/North India, and New Caledonia; strain 3 in Europe, North Africa, and the Americas; and strain 4 in West Africa and the Caribbean.

Health in Norway, with its early history of poverty and infectious diseases along with famines and epidemics, was poor for most of the population at least into the 1800s. The country eventually changed from a peasant society to an industrial one and established a public health system in 1860.

The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Bergen, Norway.

Ole Peter Riis Høegh Norwegian architect

Ole Peter Riis Høegh was one of Norway's first trained civilian architects and was Bergen's first town surveyor.

Peter Fredrik Holst Norwegian physician and professor

Peter Fredrik Holst was a Norwegian physician, a professor of internal medicine and specialist in bacteriology and cardiology. He is probably best remembered for his contributions to a widely used textbook in internal medicine.


  1. Hansen GHA (1874). "Undersøgelser Angående Spedalskhedens Årsager (Investigations concerning the etiology of leprosy)". Norsk Mag. Laegervidenskaben (in Norwegian). 4: 1–88.
  2. Irgens L (2002). "The discovery of the leprosy bacillus". Tidsskr nor Laegeforen. 122 (7): 708–9. PMID   11998735.
  3. Venita Jay. "The Legacy of Armauer Hansen". Arch Pathol Lab Med—Vol 124, April 2000. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  4. Irgens L; Rabson, S. M. (1984). "The discovery of Mycobacterium leprae. A medical achievement in the light of evolving scientific methods". Am J Dermatopathol. 6 (4): 337–43. doi:10.1097/00000372-198408000-00008. PMID   6388392.
  5. 1 2 "Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen". Retrieved 22 March 2007.
  6. Bergenseren som løste lepra-gåten Aaftenposten . 16 September 2012
  7. Ole Didrik Lærum. "Gerhard Armauer Hansen, Lege". Norsk biografisk leksikon. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  8. Svein Atle Skålevåg. "Gerhard Armauer Hansen". Store norske leksikon. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  9. Biography of Gerhard Henrik Armauer Hansen
  10. Gerhard Armauer Hansen (1814-1912) Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, vol 63, March, 2015
  11. "St. Jørgen hospital (Lepramuseet)". Medisinsk historie i Bergen. 6 May 2015. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  12. "Armauer Hansens hus". Haukeland universitetssjukehus. 6 May 2015. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  13. The Hansen Compound: From Leper Hospital to Multimedia Art Center. 31 May 2013