Professor of Forensic Medicine (1908-32)
Bacteriologist to the Bradford Anthrax Investigation Board 1905-1918.
Dr Friederich Eurich was born in Chemnitz, Saxony and came to England at the age of 7. His father moved to the branch of a German yarn firm in Bradford, where there was a substantial German community. Friedrich was educated at Bradford Grammar School and trained at Edinburgh. He practiced initially as a neurologist at the Lancashire County Asylum. From there he submitted his MD which was awarded in 1897 with one of the four gold medals awarded that year. He set up a general practice in Bradford in 1896 and was appointed honorary physician at the Bradford hospitals. In 1900 he became class assistant to Professor H.J. Campbell, the Professor of Forensic Medicine at Leeds Medical School, providing supervision of medical students in classes of practical toxicology.
In the same year, Bradford established a Pathological and Bacteriological Laboratory and Eurich was appointed Bacteriologist. The laboratory was one room in the Technical College, but in 1905 the Bradford Anthrax Investigation Board was established in new premises in Morley Street. Eurich became the Bacteriologist to the Board.
Cutaneous anthrax, “wool-sorter’s disease”, was a major problem in the woollen mills of late 19th century Bradford. It was first noticed in 1847, soon after the introduction of alpaca and mohair (angora goat hair) from Central Asia into the city’s woollen mills. During the last quarter of the century numerous measures were taken to reduce the risks to the sorters from the fleeces, but even at the end of the century there was, on average, one case a week. A third of those were fatal.
Cleaning was fundamental to the eradication of the infection carried in the imported fleeces and skins. Early methods were not effective. Ultimately the Board, through Eurich’s contribution as Bacteriologist, instituted various medical and legal measures against anthrax in the Anthrax Prevention Act of 1918, including the building of the Wool Disinfecting Station at Liverpool.
The investigative nature of his work as a bacteriologist encouraged him to apply for the post of Professor of Forensic Medicine on Campbell’s resignation in 1908. The year’s work involved 40 lectures, all in the autumn term, and acting as internal examiner twice a year. For this he received an honorarium of £38 p.a. until he retired from the post in 1932. He was a popular teacher, achieved outstanding results, which he put down to the intrinsic allure of the subject - the glamour of the detective story.
On Friederich Eurich’s death in February 1945, the Yorkshire Observer recorded that he ‘did so much to conquer the disease of anthrax and [his] contributions in the cause of medicine were so outstanding.’
We are indebted to the executors of the late Margaret F Bligh for permission to reproduce the photograph of Dr Friederich Eurich from the book "Dr Eurich of Bradford" by Margaret F Bligh, published by James Clark and Co., 1960.