Thure from Uexkull

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Thure von Uexküll with his father in the summer of 1915

Karl Kuno Thure von Uexküll (born March 15, 1908 in Heidelberg , † September 29, 2004 in Freiburg im Breisgau ) was a German doctor and founder of psychosomatic medicine and co-founder of biosemiotics .


Thure von Uexküll was born on March 15, 1908 in Heidelberg as the son of the biologist Jakob Johann von Uexküll and Gudrun Countess Schwerin-Uexküll. Jakob von Uexküll is regarded as a pioneer in biological ecology. He introduced the concept of the environment to biology and was a pioneer in theoretical biology and biosemiotics. Gudrun Countess Schwerin-Uexküll had made a name for herself as the translator of the then very popular “ The Book of San Michele ” by the Swedish doctor Axel Munthe .

Thure von Uexküll grew up in Hesse and Pomerania and came to Hamburg in 1924, where his father founded the Institute for Environmental Research.

He studied medicine from 1928 to 1934 in Munich, Innsbruck, Rostock and Hamburg. In Hamburg he passed his state examination and started as an assistant doctor in the neurological clinic of the Barmbeck hospital . In 1935 he went to Berlin to the Charité , where he accepted a traineeship with Gustav von Bergmann , an internist and pioneer of psychosomatic medicine. An academic career was out of the question at the time, as Thure von Uexküll refused to join the NSDAP. In addition, his younger brother Gösta von Uexküll had helped persecuted Jews to escape, got caught in the Gestapo's search network and fled to Sweden.

From 1943 to 1945 Thure von Uexküll was employed as a police doctor in Russia and Yugoslavia. After the war , he headed a Red Cross collection point for medical care for newly released concentration camp inmates. He completed his habilitation in 1948 and then worked as a private lecturer at the Medical Polyclinic of the University of Munich . Already in these years he published his standard work on psychosomatic medicine.

According to a former colleague in the professorship, however, he was unable to do the necessary research and persuasion for his emerging subject at the conservative medical faculty . In 1955 he then moved to the Justus Liebig University in Giessen as full professor and head of the Medical Polyclinic .

After his appointment to the reform of Ulm University to the Chair of Internal Medicine and Psychosomatics in 1966 he made there on a reform of the medical school , the z. B. through the integration of subjects such as psychology or sociology to the present day. Together with the superior of the Ulm reform clinic Ilse Schulz and the Heidelberg nursing scientist Antje Grauhan , Thure von Uexküll provided the ideas for the interdisciplinary Ulm model experiment “The internal-psychosomatic hospital ward” in the 1970s.

In 1974 Uexküll founded the "German College for Psychosomatic Medicine" (DKPM), the scientific specialist society for psychosomatic medicine, together with a group of like-minded colleagues.

Uexküll advocated psychosomatics that should be an integral part of all practical subjects in medicine and not exist as a further specialized discipline in isolation from other medical subjects.

In 1976 Uexküll retired , but remained true to his area of ​​expertise, followed current research and continued to oversee his own projects. As a recognized expert, he continued to be consulted regularly by colleagues.

Thure von Uexküll carried out research for decades in the light of the new research direction of biosemiotics. Biosemiotics examines processes of biology (e.g. cell-cell communication) with regard to their character. He consequently developed the approach taken by his father Jakob von Uexküll to a theory of biological meaning and founded psychosomatics in this regard. By Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914) of the triadic character Symbol Value (Significantly, the object / signified, artist) was adopted. In the early 1990s, Thure von Uexküll intensified the fruitful discussion with Thomas A. Sebeok , the founder of zoo semiotics. They finally agreed on the integrative term “biosemiotics” in order to subsume all research on the use of signs in living nature under this term in the future. The first biosemiotics congresses were held soon afterwards.

Thure von Uexküll founded the Academy for Integrated Medicine on August 15, 1992, which was entered in the Stuttgart register of associations on April 2, 1993 as a non-profit association. He lamented the “dualistic paradigm” of medicine with the division into a “sick body without a soul and a suffering soul without a body”. He had the idea of ​​an “integrated medicine” that overcomes the prevailing biomechanical / psychological dualism in medical care. AIM, which was renamed “Thure von Uexküll Academy for Integrated Medicine” after Thure von Uexküll's death, continues to pursue the goal of bringing back the psychosocial dimension that was lost in Western culture in all medical fields.

honors and awards

The University of Tartu awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1994 ( semiotics and medicine ).

In 2014, the acute clinic for psychosomatic medicine and psychotherapy in the historic Carlsbau in Glottertal Thure-von-Uexküll-Klinik was named in honor of Uexküll .

Publications (selection)

  • Man and nature. Basics of a natural philosophy . Francke, Bern 1953.
  • Basic questions of psychosomatic medicine . Rowohlt, Hamburg 1963.
  • Signs, Symbols and Systems . In: T. Sebeok, R. Posner (eds): A semiotic Landscape . The Hague, Paris, New York 1974, pp. 487-492.
  • Ed .: Textbook of Psychosomatic Medicine. Urban and Schwarzenberg, Munich; Vienna; Baltimore 1979, ISBN 3-541-08841-9 .
  • Environmental theory as a theory of the sign processes . In: Th v. Uexküll (Hg): Composition theory of nature. Biology as an undogmatic natural science; selected fonts . Ullstein, Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna 1980, ISBN 3-549-05461-0 .
  • Semiotics and medicine . In: Semiotica 38 (1982), volume 3/4, pp. 205-215.
  • Semiotics and the problem of the observer . In: Semiotica 48 (1984), volume 3/4, pp. 187-195.
  • Signs and Reality as an Anthroposemiotic Problem. In: Oehler, Klaus (Ed.): Signs and Reality. Tübingen, Stauffenburg-Verlag 1984, Vol. 1, pp. 61-72. ISBN 3-923721-81-1
  • Medicine and Semiotics . In: Semiotica , Vol. 61 (1986), Issue 3/4, pp. 201-217.
  • The science of the living . In: Perspectives of Philosophy. Neues Jahrbuch 1987, 13, pp. 451-461.
  • together with Wolfgang Wesiack: Theory of Human Medicine. Basics of medical thought and action . Urban and Schwarzenberg, Munich, 1988, ISBN 9783541135011 .
  • Science as a theory of signs . In: Merkur 43 (1989), pp. 225-234.
  • together with Werner Geigges and Jörg Hermann: Endosemiosis . In: Semiotica , Vol. 96 (1993), Issue 1/2, pp. 5-51.
  • Biosemiosis . In: R. Posner, K. Robering, T. Sebeok (eds.). Semiotics . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 1997, pp. 447-457.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Oliver Buschbeck, Marina von Uexküll and Karl Köhle: Thure von Uexküll on his 80th birthday on March 15, 1988 , Urban & Schwarzenberg Munich, Vienna, Baltimore 1988, pp. 2 + 3.
  2. Karl Köhle , Claudia Simons, Dieter Böck, Antje Grauhan (eds.): Applied Psychosomatics. The internist-psychosomatic infirmary - a workshop report, with a preface by Thure von Uexküll, ROCOM Basel 1980, pp. 9-11.
  3. ^ Wolfgang U. Eckart: Thure von Uexküll. In: History, Theory and Ethics of Medicine. 8th edition, Springer, Heidelberg / Berlin / New York 2017, p. 317. doi : 10.1007 / 978-3-662-54660-4
  4. Glottertal: The first patients move into their rooms - Retrieved September 30, 2014 .