The institute was formed by the later Nobel Prize laureate Robert Koch in 1891 as the Royal Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases.Koch lived until the age of 66, when he died of a heart attack in Baden-Baden, on 27 May 1910; his ashes were buried in a mausoleum in his institute on 10 December 1910. The director from 1917 to 1933 was Fred Neufeld who discovered the pneumococcal types.Neufeld’s Deputy Director from 1919 to 1933 was Walter Levinthal.
During the Third Reich, the Institute took part in atrocities committed in the name of national socialism, such as experiments into typhus vaccines at Buchenwald Concentration Camp in 1941, resulting in the deaths of 127 of the 537 inmates involved. The institute was renamed the Robert Koch Institute in 1942. Following the collapse of the regime, only few scientists ever had to face legal consequences, and their crimes were largely ignored for the remainder of the century.
In 1952 the Institute became a subordinate agency of the Federal Health Agency. Following the German reunification in 1990, some former GDR health agencies were (partly) integrated in the Robert Koch Institute. One of them was the Institute for Experimental Epidemiology in Wernigerode/Harz region, which is still an RKI location today. In 1994, the Federal Health Agency was dissolved, and RKI became an independent federal agency within the portfolio of the German Federal Ministry of Health. Two of the former Federal Health Agency’s institutes, the Berlin-based AIDS centre and the “Institut für Sozialmedizin und Epidemiologie” (Institute for Social Medicine and Epidemiology), were attached to the Robert Koch Institute. The RKI – which until then was occupied with infectious diseases alone – now had a second big topic: non-communicable diseases and their risk factors.
In 2020, the institute was responsible for publishing contact tracing smartphone apps as part of the German government’s to COVID-19.
Read more: The Robert Koch Institute which is driving German ‘Covid’ policy collaborated with the Nazis to experiment on inmates of the concentration camps – and yet when you challenge these catastrophic policies they call you a ‘neo-Nazi’. Inversion wherever you look