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Ischaemic muscular contracture due to muscle necrosis and fibrosis
with a resultant claw hand.
R von Volkmann (1830-1889) was born in Leipzig, the son of A W
Volkmann who was a Privatdozent at the time. He entered medical school
and graduated from Berlin in 1854 and in 1867 became Professor of
Surgery and Director of the Surgical Clinic at Halle where he remained
until his retirement. He was a consulting surgeon in the Franco-Prussian
War and one of Lister's major champions in Europe. He performed the
first excision of carcinoma of the rectum in 1878 and described his
contracture in 1881. He devised a splint and spoon which bear his name.
He tried to treat tuberculosis in bones and joints by iodine, cod liver
oil and diet which heralded attempts at preventive surgery. In 1894 he
reported three patients with scrotal cancer who worked with paraffin and
tar. He possessed a great literary ability and under the pen name
Richard Leander wrote poetry and a book entitled "Dreams by French
Firesides" which has a permanent place in German literature. He was one
of Lister's most ardent admirers and it was his support which resulted
in the early introduction of antiseptic surgery throughout Germany and
undoubtedly helped Lister's triumphal tour in 1875.