For the Record: Louis Duhring

A pioneer in dermatology, Louis Duhring was a physician and Penn professor whose work and generosity left a lasting legacy in the field and at the University.

Duhring, a native of Philadelphia, enrolled at the College in 1861, but in his sophomore year, left the University to enlist with the Pennsylvania Civil War Volunteers to respond to the Confederate threat to southern Pennsylvania. When Duhring returned to Penn, his interests turned from the arts to medicine; he graduated from Penn’s Medical School in 1867.

After continuing his medical studies and working in hospitals in Vienna, Paris, and London for a couple of years, Duhring returned to Philadelphia and formed one of the first  medical practices devoted solely to dermatology. He was quickly recognized nationally and internationally as an authority in the discipline.

Duhring story

University Archives and Records Center

Duhring’s 30-year teaching career at Penn started as a lecturer in 1871, and by 1890 he became a full professor. He was the founder of Penn Medicine’s Dermatology Department, the first in the nation.

His trailblazing work greatly influenced the study of dermatology. He helped educate the medical community and the public in understanding the importance of dermatology in diagnosing systemic disease, raising it to the level of other medical specialties.

His first book, “Atlas of Skin Diseases,” was widely used in teaching dermatology in the United States. His second book, “A Treatise on Diseases of the Skin,” was used to instruct scholars in Europe, as well, after it was translated into French, Italian, and Russian.

His many connections with medical and scientific societies include the College of Physicians in Philadelphia, the American Medical Association, and as a founding member and a two-time president of the American Dermatological Society.

Duhring left his estate to Penn when he died in 1913 at the age 67. His vision and legacy as a benefactor was instrumental in the Dermatology Department’s development and growth and into a world-renowned unit.

The Duhring Wing of the Fisher Fine Arts Library is named in his honor.

For more information about this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives online.

Originally published on March 13, 2014