In her memoirs, published for the first time, Robert Koch’s second wife opens up unexpected perspectives on the famous microbe hunter.
The internationally highly respected Robert Koch shocked bourgeois Berlin in the 1890s: he divorced his wife to marry Hedwig Freiberg, who was 29 years younger.
Many years after his death, Hedwig Koch describes in her memoirs not only the happy moments at the Nobel Prize winner’s side, but also the unvarnished reality of marriage to a difficult partner, whom she occasionally experienced as a »schoolmasterishly dry, uncannily civil servant-like, industrious, elderly paragon«. She accompanied her husband on extended research expeditions and provides deep insights into dubious colonial medicine through the example of perhaps its best-known representative. Her observations reveal both the strengths and the abysses of Robert Koch’s microbiological research. Above all, however, her memoirs read as the social critique of a woman who sways between selfless devotion and rebellion against humiliation and devaluation she has suffered.