Commemoration of the German Society of Gastroenterology
In memory of

Prof. Dr. med.
Erich Frank
1884 - 1957

Prof. Dr. med. Erich Frank, Karlsbad 1928
Prof. Dr. med. Erich Frank, Karlsbad 1928

Member since 1927

Early metabolic pathologist

Co-developer of the first oral antidiabetic drug

Medical Director of the newly founded University of Istanbul

Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift 1912
Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift 1912
Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift 1926
Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift 1926

Prof. Dr. med. Erich Frank

  • Berlin, 2‌8‌.‌0‌6‌.‌1‌8‌8‌4‌
  • Istanbul, 1‌3‌.‌0‌2‌.‌1‌9‌5‌7‌
  • Member since 1927
  • Escaped to Turkey in 1933
  • Wrocław
  • Specialist in internal medicine

Erich Frank was born in Berlin in 1884 as the son of the merchant Albert Frank and his wife Dorothea, née Jungmann.


Education and Places of Work

After graduating from the Königliches König Wilhelm-Gymnasium in Breslau/Wroclaw in 1902, Frank studied medicine in Breslau, where he passed the state examination in 1907. He completed the practical year in the medical clinic at the municipal hospital in Wiesbaden under Wilhelm Weintraud. Frank received his doctorate from the University of Strasbourg in 1908 with the thesis “Über den genuinen orthostatischen Typ”. He wrote his thesis under the supervision of the internist Friedrich Moritz, Bernhard Naunyn’s successor at the Strasbourg Medical Clinic.

Dissertation, Straßburg 1908
Dissertation, Straßburg 1908

He received his training in internal medicine under Wilhelm Weintraud, a diabetes and metabolism researcher, at the Medical Clinic of the Wiesbaden Municipal Hospital from 1908 to 1911. This had a lasting influence on him. Frank’s intensive preoccupation with questions of the therapy of diabetes mellitus probably originated with Weintraud. During his time in Wiesbaden, Frank participated in the clinical testing of salvarsan, among other things, at the suggestion of Paul Ehrlich. Frank published on experimental forms of diabetes together with Simon Isaac, who was also an assistant physician of Weintraud’s at the time.

Erich Frank moved to the Medical University Clinic in Breslau in 1911 to work with Oskar Minkowski, the leading diabetes researcher in Germany of his time. Frank habilitated in internal medicine at the Medical Faculty of the University of Breslau in 1913. He was appointed professor (extraordinarius) of internal medicine in Breslau in 1919. He was a senior physician at Minkowski’s clinic in 1918.

Erich Frank was appointed head physician of the department of internal medicine at the Breslau Municipal Wenzel-Hancke Hospital in 1926.

Frank’s scientific work focused on the field of metabolic research, endocrinology, blood diseases, and the autonomic nervous system. Based on his studies, he advanced the view of the “hypophysocentric origin of true diabetes insipidus” in 1912 and was thus one of the first to describe the association between diabetes insipidus and the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland. Erich Frank developed the new nosology of arterial hypertension and the concept of essential hypertension.

Arch Exp Path Pharmakol 1913
Arch Exp Path Pharmakol 1913
Klinische Wochenschrift 1926
Klinische Wochenschrift 1926
Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift 1912
Berliner Klinische Wochenschrift 1912

His research centred on diabetes mellitus. Frank, Martin Nothmann, and Arthur Wagner from the Medical University Clinic in Breslau introduced the first effective oral antidiabetic drug, the diguanidine “synthalin”, in 1926. This was a milestone in the oral treatment of diabetes. However, the drug, which was manufactured until 1945, was not widely used, due to undesirable side effects. The less toxic biguanides such as phenformin or metformin only became available around 1960.

Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift 1926
Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift 1926


Escape to Turkey in 1933

Frank was dismissed early from his leading position at the Wenzel-Hancke Hospital in Breslau in 1933. With the support of Albert Einstein, who – as chairman of the Union Sociétés OSÉ pour la Protection de la Santé des Populations Juives – appealed to the Turkish Prime Minister, and with the help of the initiative of the Frankfurt pathologist Philipp Schwartz for the emigration of German professors to Turkey, Erich Frank was able to leave Germany in autumn 1933. He worked as medical director of the II Medical Clinic of the newly founded Istanbul University from 1934 until his death in 1957. Frank was responsible for many initiatives, in particular for training in internal medicine in Turkey. He was accompanied by his colleague Kurt Steinitz from Breslau, who took over the laboratory management at the Istanbul University Medical Clinic, and the dietary nurse Elisabeth Wolff, who, in close cooperation with Frank, promoted up-to-date dietary therapy.

Frank’s textbook ‘Innere Klinik der Nierenkrankheiten’ was published in 1941 and his lectures on the ‘Klinik der Inneren Krankheiten’ (3 volumes) were translated into Turkish in 1951/56. Erich Frank also founded the “Istanbuler Zeitschrift für klinische Medizin” (Turkish: “Klinik Ilim”) in 1951.

Erich Frank died in Istanbul on 13 February 1957 at the age of 72. Frank is still held in great esteem in Turkey today, due to his great merits in the further development of internal medicine since 1934.

The Erich Frank Society was founded in Munich in 1984. The society aims to maintain and intensify relations between the medical faculties of Munich and Istanbul, among other things, through exchange programmes.


  1. Ueber Beziehungen der Hypophyse zum Diabetes insipidus. Berl Klin Wochenschr 1912; 49: 393-397
  2. Über experimentelle und klinische Glykosurien renalen Ursprungs. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch exp Path Pharmakol 1913; 72: 387-443
  3. Mit Nothmann M, Wagner A.: Über synthetisch dargestellte Körper mit Insulinartiger Wirkung auf den normalen und diabetischen Organismus. Klin Wochenschr 1926; 5: 2100-2107
  4. Mit Nothmann M, Wagner A.: Die Synthalinbehandlung des Diabetes mellitus. Dtsch Med Wochenschr 1926; 52: 2067-2070
  5. Pathologie des Kohlenhydratstoffwechsels. Basel: Verlag Benno Schwabe & Co, 1949

Sources and Further Reading


Biographie of Prof. Dr. med. Erich Frank


  • Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Frank E. Dissertation: Über den genuinen orthostatischen Typus (Genuine orthostatische Albuminurie). Straßburg 1908. BSB, Sign Diss. S. 23.24: 74f.


  • Fischer I. Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Ärzte der letzten fünfzig Jahre. Band I. Berlin, Wien: Urban & Schwarzenberg; 1932:
  • Forsbach R, Hofer H-G. Internisten in Diktatur und junger Demokratie. Die Deutsche Gesellschaft für Innere Medizin 1933-1970. Berlin: Medizinisch Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft 2018: 420
  • Gaedicke G. Ein jüdischer Arzt aus Deutschland als Modernisierer der akademischen Medizin in der Türkei. Professor Erich Franks Wirken an der Universität Istanbul. In: Heidel CP (Hg). Jüdische Medizin-Jüdisches in der Medizin-Medizin der Juden? Medizin und Judentum Band 10, Frankfurt: Mabuse-Verlag; 2011: 255-264
  • Kagan S. Jewish Physicians. Boston: Medico-Historical Press 1952: 177
  • Kreft G. Philipp Schwartz (1894–1977): Zürich und die Notgemeinschaft Deutscher Wissenschaftler im Ausland. Band 18. Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Nervenheilkunde; 2012: 101-129
  • Namal A. Eine deutsche Pionierin der türkischen Diätetik: Elisabeth Wollf. NTM Journal of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine 2004; 12: 161-181
  • Riemann F. Erich Frank. Nachruf. Münch Med Wochenschr 1957; 99:
  • Steinitz K. Erich Frank. Nachruf. Dtsch med Wochenschr 1957; 82: 1138-39
  • Sever M, Namal A, Eknoyan G. Erich Frank (1884-1957): Unsung pioneer in nephrology. Am J Kid Dis 2011; 58: 654-665
  • Voswinckel P. Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Ärzte der letzten fünfzig Jahre. Berlin 1932-1933. Band III. Hildesheim, Zürich, New York: Georg Olms Verlag; 2002: 441-42
  • Widmann H. Exil und Bildungshilfe. Die deutschsprachige akademische Emigration in die Türkei nach 1933. Bern, Frankfurt: Lang; 1973: 87&261