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History of the Institute

The Medical Faculty of the University of Bonn was founded on 18 October 1818. The first domicile of the medical institutions was the Electoral Palace, in which two institutions were planned for the medical sciences, the anatomical theatre and the clinic. The anatomy, which at that time included physiology and pathological anatomy, was located in the southeast wing of the castle. The premises of the medical sciences remained in the former residence castle for more than 50 years. It was only during the Empire that new buildings for institutes and clinics were erected outside the city centre.
With the appointment of Eduard Pflüger as Professor of Physiology at the Medical Faculty of Bonn University in 1859, physiology was able to establish itself as an independent subject and the professorships of anatomy and physiology were seperated. The newly founded Physiological Instiute was initially housed in simple premises before moving into the Hofgarten building, today the Academic Art Museum, in 1872. In November 1878, the PPhysiological Institute moved into the new institute building in the new development area for the scientific and agrucultural institutes in Poppelsdorf. After a comprehensive renovation of the building, the Institute of Physiology II moved back from Wilhelmstraße to Nussallee in 2010. The building also houses the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry.


Johannes MüllerJohannes Müller (1801-1858) is regarded as one of the pioneers of biology and medicine of the 19th century. His work was remarkable for comparable anatomy, embryology and general and experimental physiology. With the creative connection between romantic natural philosophy and scientific achievments, Müller succeeded in creating essential foundatione for modern physiology and biology.

"With Johannes Müller, so to speak, the medicine of Goethe's time said goodbye and finally mutated into natural science"1.


In 1819 Müller enrolled at the Medical Faculty of the University of Bonn. He completed his studies with a doctorate in 1822. Barely two years later he habilitated in physiology and comparative anatomy and physiology. In 1833 he was appointed to a chair in Berlin, which he held until his death in 1858. Although he only belonged to the medical faculty of Bonn University for a few years, he was one of its most important personalities. In 1824 he was one of the first habilitates to receive the Venia legendi at the Institute.
During his time in Bonn, Müller devoted himself in particular to comparative anatomical studies of the sensory organs, sensory physiological experiments and undertook intensive self-observations. His Bonn works still bear witness to his natural-philosophical origins.
The "Handbuch der Physiologie für Vorlesungen" was also an essential creation of the years in Bonn for the further history of physiology.
Müller's pupils included, among others: Hermann von Helmholtz, Rudolf virchow, Ernst Haeckel and Emil du Bois-Reymond, who became leading figures of the scientific era of medicine in their time.


Already in the first years after the reconstruction of the Physiological Institute an active research and teaching activity developed. In 1868 Eduard Pflüger founded the journal "Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie des Menschen und der Tiere". Today this journal is the official journal of the Association of the European Physiological Societeies under the title "Pflügers Archiv, European Journal of Physiology".

Eduard PflügerEduard Pflüger (1829-1910), founding director of the Pysiological Institute, represented the subject of physiology at the medical faculty in Bonn for half a century. The institute was regarded as one of the best equipped of its time. The Pflügers Laboratory here in Bonn became one of the most important centres in the field of metabolic research.
In 1850 Pflüger turned to medicine, which he studied in Marburg and Berlin as a pupil of Johannes Müller and Emil du Bois-Reymond. In 1853 he received his doctorate "Ueber das Hemmungs-Nervensystem für die peristalischen Bewegungen der Gedärme" and subsequently became Emil du Bois-Reymonds' assistant. In 1858 he qualified as a professor of physiology and one year later followed the call as a full professor to the new chair of physiology at Bonn University. Pflüger was primarily concerned with the sensory functions of the spinal cord, respiratory physiology and electrotonus.

From 1889 to 1890 he headed the university as rector. During this time he was also appointed Privy Medical Councillor.
Because of his special achievements in the field of nerve and cell functions, Pflüger was nominated several times for the Nobel Prize since 1902. One of his most important pupils was Nathan Zuntz.

Pflüger's studies are characterized by methodical care and productive experimental arrangements, thanks to which he was able to investigate fundamental physiological processes under overarching theories such as evolution. The "Archiv für die gesamte Physiologie der Menschen und Tiere", which he edited and published with his own contributions, enjoyed international recognition.

A name closely linked to Eduard Pflüger is Nathan Zuntz (1847-1920). Nathan Zuntz came from Bonn coffee roasting dynasty Zuntz, whose company A. Zuntz sel. Wwe was founded in 1837 (the brand A. Zuntz sel. Wwe is now owned by Dallmayr). In 1864 the descendant decided to study medicine at the local university. At the end of his studies, Zuntz worked as a junior doctor wih Hugo Ruehle at the Medical Clinic in Bonn. In 1870 he became assistant to his doctoral supervisor Eduard Pflüger. One year later he became a lecturer at the University of Bonn and in the following year honorary lecturer for physiology at the Königlichen Landwirtschaftlichen Akademie in Poppeldsdorf. In 1874 he was awarded the extraordinary professorship of physiology at the University of Bonn and began to set up the animal physiology laboratory. In particular, his animal physiological work paved the way for the development of physiology. He is also regarded as a pinoeer of altitude physiology and a co-founder of avitation medicine.
In the 1960s Zuntz and the Institute of Physiology came together again, as the Villa of the Zuntz family in the Argelanderstraße was made available to the Institute for their research and teaching activities.


Eduard Pflüger's successor in 1910 was Max Verworn, who is regarded as the founder of general cell physiology. He followed a call to Berlin in 1923 and the vacant chair of Physiology was filled in 1924 with Ulrich Ebbecke. He headed the institute for almost 30 years until 1953, followed by Kurt Wachholder (1954), Josef Pichotka (1962) and Jürgen Grote (1981). Under Pichotka a second chair of physiology was founded at the University of Bonn in 1972, to which Hans Gerorg Haas was appointed. He headed the Institute of Physiology II, which as inititally housed in premises on Wilhelmstraße before moving into the building complex on Nussallee.
With the appointment of Hans Georg Haas to the second chair, the research focus of physiology was expanded to include the aspect of cellular electrophysiology of the heart.
Today, the Institute of Physiology II is particularly concerned with neurophysiological issues.


1) Becker, T; Rosin, P.: Die Natur- und Lebenswissenschaften: Geschichte der Universität Bonn, Bd. 4, S. 12.

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