Ernst Moro (1874-1951)--a great pediatric career started at the rise of university-based pediatric research but was curtailed in the shadows of Nazi laws

Eur J Pediatr. 2005 Oct;164(10):599-606. doi: 10.1007/s00431-005-1703-2. Epub 2005 Jun 2.


Ernst Moro was born on December 8, 1874, in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and attended university in Graz, Austria. Pediatrics, initially regarded as a part of internal medicine, was in its early days as an independent field at universities in German-speaking Europe. The first Chair of Pediatrics had been established in Vienna, Austria in 1884. Ten years later Germany was granted its first Chair in Berlin. Escherich, who held the first Chair of Pediatrics at Graz, was seen as one of the most respected pediatricians in Europe. Therefore, he was invited in 1904 to represent pediatrics together with the American Abraham Jacobi at the International World Congress on Science at the Saint Louis World Exposition in the United States. The high mortality of nearly 25% in infancy was seen as one of the main problems. Escherich's scientific work had established him as the leading bacteriologist. Moro's pediatric career started in Escherich's laboratory with experimental research on the physiology of digestion in infants. In 1900 he presented the first bacteriological characterisation of Lactobacillus acidophilus. In 1906 he received his venia legendi for his work on the bacterial flora in physiological and pathological conditions of the infantile intestine. In 1908 Moro won international reputation for his simple percutaneous skin test for tuberculosis, which was widely used in many countries as the "Moro test" at least until the 1960s. He described a carrot soup and other dietary prescriptions as helpful for diarrhoeal disease. In 1911 he became Head of the Children's Hospital at Heidelberg. In 1918 he described some features peculiar to the first 3 months; according to him this trimenon should be regarded as an own entity like the newborn period. The most famous part of the paper was the description of a milestone in the infant's neurological development, the Umklammerungsreflex (embracing reflex). In 1919 Moro was promoted from associate professor to the first 'Ordinarius', thus founding the first Chair of Pediatrics at Heidelberg and marking the beginning of a scientifically most fruitful period of international collaboration. However, as his wife was of Jewish origin, Moro slowly withdrew from hospital service starting in 1933. After early retirement in 1936, he worked as a pediatrician at home until 1948.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Germany
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Jews / history
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Pediatrics / history*
  • Reflex