David Gruby is considered the founder of medical microbiology. He was the son of a poor Jewish peasant in a village at Baczka, a fertile district of southern Hungary and grew up in the mid 1700’s. Long before anyone knew anything about a ringworm treatment or the nature of the infection, Dr. Gruby isolated and defined what a ringworm infection is…
Assisted by friends, he obtained a position in the Founding Hospital under the distinguished pediatrician Jacques François Baron (1782-1849) and, urged by some foreign students, he began to give courses in microscopic anatomy and pathology.
At this time Gruby began to announce his discoveries of various microscopic fungi that produce skin diseases. In 1841 he demonstrated for the first time that a fungus infection of the scalp, called favus, was caused by a fungus. The disease is characterized by thick yellow crusts resembling honeycombs over the hair follicles and accompanied by intense itching. At a time before the use of agar media, Gruby isolated the fungus causing favus, from infected individuals, grew the fungus on slices of potatoes and was able to reproduce the favus disease by carrying out inoculation experiments on healthy tissue. This experiment demonstrated, for the first time, that a micro organism was the cause of a human disease.
And a few years later, Gruby was able to prove that these live micro-organisms called microsporum cause a form of tinea that is now called microsporia, Gruby’s disease or ringworm. And although he was challenged by many of his contemporaries, it was eventually realized that in the short period of his scientific activity Gruby had made very original and important contributions to science. In fact, he founded an important branch of modern medicine, discovering the dermatomycoses, a group of skin diseases caused by parasitic lower plants.