Wilhelm Löffler

Wilhelm Löffler (1887 – 1972)

Wilhelm Löffler (1887 – 1972) was a Swiss physician.

Löffler is eponymously associated with two clinical manifestations of eosinophilia which he described: transient pulmonary infiltrates with eosinophilia (Löffler syndrome, 1932) and endocarditis parietalis fibroplastica (Löffler endocarditis, 1936).

He introduced the use of insulin in Switzerland, and was a pioneer in the prevention and control of tuberculosis via advocacy for mass population X-ray surveillance.

Löffler was an accomplished clinician, researcher, and teacher.

  • Born 28 June 1887 Basel, Switzerland
  • 1911 – M.D. degree, Universities of Geneva, Basel and Vienna
  • 1912 – Institut für Pathologie (Institute for Pathology), Universitätsspitals Basel (University Hospital Basel)
  • 1913 – Physiological-Chemical Institute, University of Strasbourg
  • 1913-1921 – University Hospital Basel
  • 1917 – Completed the habilitation in internal medicine
  • 1921-37 – Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of Medizinischen Poliklinik (medical polyclinic), University of Zurich
  • 1936-38 – Dean of Medical Faculty, University of Zurich
  • 1937-57 – Professor of Internal Medicine and Head of Medical Clinic, University of Zurich
  • 1957-71 – Appointed Honorary Professor, University of Zurich
  • Died 25 November 1972 Basel, Switzerland

Medical Eponyms
Löffler syndrome (1932)

Marked eosinophilia with benign, transient and migratory pulmonary infiltrates. [Note: Kartagener disease (1942) – chronic form of eosinophilic pulmonary infiltration]

In 1932, Löffler described four cases of transient (lasting 3-8 days) pulmonary infiltrates on chest X-ray, little to no symptoms, and normal white cell counts, but blood eosinophilia in two of the cases. He discovered these infiltrates while performing mass X-ray surveillance of tuberculosis patients in Zürich at the time.

In 1936, Löffler published 51 additional cases of the syndrome he had observed

Löffler Endocarditis (1936)

Form of restrictive cardiomyopathy which affects the endocardium and occurs with proliferation of Eosinophils. Löffler first described diffuse mural endocarditis (endocarditis parietalis fibroplastica) with eosinophilia, associated with congestive cardiac failure

Key Medical Attributions
  • Discovery of transient pulmonary migratory infiltrates with eosinophilia, and diffuse mural endocarditis with eosinophil proliferation
  • One of the first to introduce and use exogenous insulin in Switzerland
  • First to present the use of X-ray surveillance for population screening in tuberculosis for the prevention and control of the disease


In 1955, Löffler notably diagnosed German novelist and Nobel laureate Thomas Mann incorrectly with thrombophlebitis. Mann was 80 years old at the time, and developed a swollen and painful left leg during his vacation in Holland. The diagnosis of ‘thrombophlebitis’ was made by Mülders (Leiden) and confirmed by Wilhelm Löffler (Zürich). However, the pathological diagnosis on autopsy, by Professor Hedinger, was a rupture of the left iliac artery aneurysm with extensive retroperitoneal haematoma, compression and thrombosis of the left iliac vein.

Major Publications



Eponymous terms

Doctor in Australia. Keen interest in internal medicine, medical education, and medical history.

BA MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM. Emergency physician, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.  Passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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