Fritz Richard Schaudinn, a German zoologist chiefly remembered for his discovery of Spirochaeta pallida, later known as Treponema pallidumor or Schaudinn’s bacillus, the micro-organism responsible for syphilis.

Schaudinn matriculated at the University of Berlin in 1890 where he completed a dissertation on Foraminifera in 1894 and a Habilitationsschrift on cell theory and protozoology. During this period, Schaudinn published a number of papers and worked first as an assistant at the university's Zoological Institute and later as a Privatdozent. He also made several research trips to the Arctic.

In 1901 Schaudinn was appointed director of the zoological station located in Rovigno (now Rovinj, Yugoslavia) on the Dalmatian coast. He conducted field studies on malaria in a nearby village and revealed the amoebic nature of tropical dysentery.

In 1904 Schaudinn returned to Berlin as director of the newly established Institute for Protozoology at the Imperial Ministry of Health. His first task was to complete a study of hookworm, which affected German miners. He was among the first to confirm that the parasite entered the body by penetrating the skin of the miners' legs and feet.

His investigation of syphilis was conducted with the help of the dermatology clinic at the Charité Hospital in Berlin where the dermatologist Erich Hoffmann became his consultant. While verifying a colleague's experimental work on syphilis during the spring of 1905, Schaudinn detected a pale, spiral-shaped rod among the organisms on a microscopy slide prepared with the fluid of a syphilitic papule. Shortly thereafter, Schaudinn differentiated between coarse and spirochetes and observed spirochetes in tissue taken from syphilitic lymph nodes, findings that clearly implicated the micro-organism in the etiology of syphilis.

Schaudinn's observations were met with skepticism, as investigators in other countries verified the presence of the Spirochaeta pallida in syphilitic lesions but failed to obtain pure cultures. Schaudinn took a leave of absence and moved to Hamburg where he took up a post at the Research Institute for Naval and Tropical Diseases. He died in 1906, before his discovery could be extensively confirmed.


Gunterb, Risse. "Schaudinn, Fritz Richard." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, vol. 12, Charles Scribner's Sons, 2008. 141-143.

Last modified 27 January 2017