Carl Lüderitz

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Carl Ferdinand Lüderitz – who published the first comprehensive description of intestinal peristalsis and its origin.[1] – was born on 12th of February in Berlin as the second child of Carl Adolph Lüderitz und his wife Kathinka Lucie Louise (born Neider).

Life and education

He was baptized on 17th of March 1854 in the Jerusalem Church and spent the first 20 years of his life in Friedrichstadt (Berlin), a district which is today Berlin center. This area was part of the expansion of Berlin at the end of the 18th century to accommodate the growing population and hosted many of the Huguenot refugees[2]. In 1864, the Lüderitz family consisting of Carl Adolph, Lucie and their four children Albert, Carl, Elisabeth und Hermann became members of the French colony (French-reformed church, Calvinists) in Berlin. Carl Lüderitz visited the Friedrich Wilhelm Gymnasium, located in Friedrichstadt, where he received his Abitur (graduation from high school) in February 1872. In the same year, he enrolled for Medicine at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität in Berlin in Berlin. Two years later he moved to the University of Jena where he finished Medicine under the supervision of his cousin Hermann Nothnagel, who became director of the Medicial Clinic in Jena in 1874.

Between his dissertation und habilitation, the latter was and still is required to enter the academic career path in Germany, he worked as a medical assistant to Nothnagel until Nothnagel took up an appointment as Professor and director of the Medical Clinic at the University of Vienna in 1882[3].

In 1907, Dr. Carl Lüderitz retired and moved to the rural colony of Waldsieversdorf some 50 km east of Berlin, where he bought property. He kept practicing in Waldsieversdorf on an irregular basis, mainly by helping out in the local sanatorium[4]. It was in Waldsieversdorf where he finished a booklet on his thoughts about the general energetics of organisms[5]. The ideas clearly revealed his affection for the monistic philosophy. Dr. Carl Lüderitz died on the 16th of November 1930 in his house in Waldsieversdorf of renal insufficiency[6].

Academic career

Carl Lüderitz returned to Berlin in 1882 and started as a practicing physician. In the early years he moved his practice quite often until he finally settled at Mariannenplatz 8 in the Luisenstadt district, which is today Kreuzberg, in 1887. For over 20 years he was a practicing physician and doctor for the poor before he retired. Lüderitz published most of his scientific work within the first 10 years after moving back to Berlin. He volunteered for short periods of time at the Institute of Hygiene, headed by Robert Koch, and at the Physiological Institute with Johannes Gad. The results were two very influential publication in the field of microbiology[7] and heart physiology[8]. Carl Lüderitz provided the earliest observations on mechanotransduction in the rabbit heart which revealed an association between distension of the heart and outflow of blood. His discovery was the basis for the intrinsic reflex reported three years later by Otto Frank[9], which is today known as the Frank-Starling mechanism. In recognition of his 20 years community service and his achievements in science, Carl Lüderitz was promoted to Sanitätsrath (Chief Medical Officer) by the state health administration (Ministerium der geistlichen, Unterrichts- und Medizinal-Angelegenheiten) in 1899[10]

Although his scientific interests were rather broad, Carl Lüderitz primarily focused on gastrointestinal motility, in particular peristalsis which regulates the proximal-to-distal movement of intestinal content. His significant observations on the response of the intestine after filling and distension were the first scientific description of this movement of bowel content[11]. He found that the strength of the distension as well as the excitability state of the distended region determines the contractile response of the muscle. The spatio-temporally coordinated contractions are the basis for peristalsis which may be considered as a wave of contractions. Ten years later, William Bayliss und Ernest Starling described similar events after intestinal distension which evoked a proximal contraction together with a distal relaxation[12]. In recognition of the three pioneers, the reflex was at the time referred to as the Lüderitz-Bayliss-Starling-Reflex[13] but is today mostly known as "the peristaltic reflex” or the “law of the intestine”.

The family chronic of the Lüderitz family between 1700-2020 together with a historical background was published in 2021 (14). The family has no obvious relation to the family of the Bremen based merchant Adolf von Lüderitz. All publications from Dr. Carl Lüderitz as well as many documents may be assessed through the Lüderitz-Archive hosted by German Society of Neurogastroenterology and Motility (DGNM).

There is no photo of Dr. Carl Lüderitz but he is shown in a family portrait from 1888 painted by his sister Elisabeth (–>Figure).


Paul Enck, Gunther Mai, Michael Schemann: Die Familie Lüderitz. Geschichte und Geschichten aus drei Jahrhunderten. Hayit Verlag, Köln 2021


  1. Michael Schemann, Gunther Mai, Marcello Costa, Paul Enck. Translating the seminal findings of Carl Lüderitz: A description in English of his extraordinary studies of gastrointestinal motility accompanied by a historical view of peristalsis. Neurogastroenterol Motil 33;2021:e13995, doi: 10.1111/nmo.13995
  2. Werner Gahrig: Hugenotten in Berlin und Brandenburg. Historische Spaziergänge. Das Neue Berlin Verlagsgesellschaft, Berlin 2005
  3. Max Neuburger. Hermann Nothnagel: Leben und Wirken eines deutschen Klinikers. Rikola Verlag, Wien 1922
  4. Eberhard Friedrich: Waldsieversdorfer Ortsdokumentation 1895 - 1945. Eigendruck: Waldsieversdorf 2006 (Erstdruck 1979), hrsg. vom Waldsieversdorfer Heimatverein e.V.
  5. Carl Lüderitz: Gedanken zur allgemeinen Energetik der Organismen. Verlag Hirschwald, Berlin 1910
  6. Paul Enck, Gunther Mai, Thomas Frieling, Michael Schemann: Woran starben Dr. Carl Lüderitz (1854-1932) und seine Vor- und Nachfahren. Zeitschrift für Gastroenterologie 59;2021:415-422, doi: 10.1055/a-1400-2752
  7. Carl Lüderitz: Zur Kenntniss der anaëroben Bacterien. Zeitschrift für Hygiene 1889; 5(1) 141–160
  8. Carl Lüderitz: Versuche über den Ablauf des Blutdruckes bei Aortenstenose. Zeitschrift für klinische Medicin 1892; 20:374-396
  9. Otto Frank: Zur Dynamik des Herzmuskels. Zeitschrift für Biologie. 1895;32:370- 437
  10. Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, I HA Rep 76 VIII A, Nr. 865, Seiten 163 ff
  11. Carl Lüderitz: Experimentelle Untersuchungen über Entstehung der Darmperistaltik. Archiv für Pathologische Anatomie und Physiologie und für Klinische Medicin. 1889; 116(1): 49- 64
  12. William M. Bayliss, Ernest H. Starling: The movements and innervation of the small intestine. J Physiol. 1899; 24:99-143
  13. Paul Trendelenburg: Physiologische und pharmakologische Versuche über die Dünndarmperistaltik. Arch. Exp. Pathol. Pharmakol. 1917; 81:55-129

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