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She found tubercle bacilli before Robert Koch

Since women were not allowed to study in the Russian Empire, Lydia Rabinowitsch-Kempner did her studies in Zurich and Bern before moving to Berlin. Here in 1904 she detected tubercle bacilli in raw milk. This was a success that had thus far eluded her mentor Robert Koch.

Her development as a leading microbiologist began at the Robert Koch Royal Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases. The only woman on its staff, Rabinowitsch-Kempner worked there – unpaid – alongside Robert Koch. In 1898 she became a professor of bacteriology in the United States.

Later she worked again at the Robert Koch Institute, moving shortly thereafter to Charité as a research assistant. In 1912 she became the first woman in Berlin to be awarded the title of professor, but was denied university employment. It was not until 1920 that she received a well-paid position as head of the Bacteriological Institute at the Moabit Municipal Hospital. In 1934 the National Socialists forced her into retirement.

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