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Wurzbg Medizinhist Mitt. 2005;24:415-24.

[The plant physiologist Julius von Sachs and the academic education of women].

[Article in German]


The attitude of the famous plant physiologist Julius von Sachs (1832-1897) to higher education of women is described on the basis of some new documents. Generally, Sachs was in favour of academic education of women at universities, but initially wanted to exclude females from the study of medicine. However, by the example of a bright young Russian lady, who studied medicine in St. Petersburg and who worked 1871 in his laboratory in Würzburg on lower fungi for some time (presumably illegally, since the access for woman to the university was at that time officially forbidden in Würzburg), he changed his mind: 1) In contrast to many colleagues of his time he granted females similar intelligence and skills as males and stated that women had legal rights for the access to the university. 2) He favoured the general necessity of higher education (in particular in science) for women and did not see any contrast in respect to this to the role of women in the society as wives, mothers, and housewives. 3) Access to the university would stimulate the development of young women and thereby would be an improvement for our society. However, in conclusion he asked himself, whether the higher education of females should take place at special women colleges (not existing at that time in Germany) or at universities and whether girl students should preferentially become teachers at high schools for daughters of the high society. He admitted that he also felt uncomfortable because of the threatening job competition between young academic male (traditionally the majority of students in science) and female students. The liberal view of Sachs in respect to higher education of women is compared to the rather conservative view of his former student and friend Hugo Thiel.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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