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Rahel Hirsch (Frankfurt/M. 1870 – 1953 near London). The daughter of a long line of rabbis, she passed her first teacher's exam in 1889 at a 'Normal School' in Wiesbaden. In contrast with other countries, the German Reich did not permit women to study medicine. It is for this reason that she commenced her medical studies in Zurich in 1899, continuing her university studies at Leipzig and Strasburg and earning her medical doctor title in 1903.
The clinical director Friedrich Kraus (1858 – 1936), hired her as an intern at Medical Clinic II of the University of Berlin at the Charité, even though this facility was still a military hospital and strongly influenced by the military. She was only the second female doctor to ever be hired by the Charité in this capacity.
In 1906, Rahel Hirsch was the first scientist to establish the presence of starch granules in the blood and urine, a discovery that had been all but forgotten until it finally received recognition in 1957 and assumed its rightful place in medical literature (the Hirsch effect).
Rahel Hirsch was appointed as the Polyclinic's director in 1908. Although she was the first ever female doctor to be awarded the title of 'Professor' in Prussia in 1913, she was nevertheless not allowed to teach. Because she was both a woman and a Jew, she was removed from her position as director of the Polyclinic when the younger Theodor Brugsch returned from World War I in 1918. She left the Charité and started her own successful internal medicine practice in Berlin's Charlottenburg district. Her treatise "Physical Culture of Women" published in 1913 sought to counter the medical prejudice against physical activity for women and favored naturally-fitting clothing. In 1914, she demonstrated her expert knowledge as an adjudicator in a study entitled "Accidents and internal medicine".Her professional opportunities gradually shrank with the onset of Jewish persecution (see related commentary on "Diversity Destroyed" in the Charité ) - ending in the revocation of her license to practice medicine in 1938. Several months later, she learned that she was to be arrested just prior to the persecutions of the Kristallnacht of November 9th and 10th. She was able to escape to England, where as a 68-year old woman she was required to retake her medical exams for her to be allowed to work as a physician. She earned her living in a laboratory and by translating scientific texts; she was deeply depressed by the persecution, her exile and her own personal situation. As reported in newspapers, she eventually became 'melancholic' and had to be put in a 'mental house' due to 'delusions' and 'paranoid anxiety', where she subsequently died at the age of 83.(Text: Udo Schagen, October 28, 2013)
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