Duel on sausages

Today we will talk about honor, dignity, duel and ... sausages that saved one scientist from an untimely death. But let's go back a little and start from the very beginning, talking about the main characters and the background of this unusual story.

In 1861, the Prussian King Frederick William IV died and his brother took the throne as King William. The new ruler decided to appoint Otto von Bismarck as minister-chairman in order to resolve the differences.

Otto von Bismarck

Bismarck was the perfect candidate. He has already shown himself to be a shrewd and courageous politician, and also proved his loyalty to the king, and also before that he went through a number of political appointments: the representative of Prussia in the Frankfurt Union Diet, a member of the Prussian House of Lords, ambassador to Russia and France.

In his new role, Bismarck constantly faced the Prussian Diet. One of his most ardent opponents was Rudolf Virchow, who was elected leader of the radical (progressive) party in the same year in which Bismarck was appointed (1962).

Rudolf Virchow was not only a politician, but also a scientist. He was a pioneer in cell biology and one of the founders of cell theory. As a doctor, Virchow achieved a lot in anatomy, pathology and pathology. In addition (and this is important, then you will understand why), he studied in detail the parasite Trichinella in 1865, which we will talk about a little later.

Events culminated in 1865, during a debate over the funding of the Navy. Professor Vikhrov said to Bismarck in front of everyone: If the minister-chairman read the financial report, then I do not know what to say about his honesty. The truth is that the state treasury is emptying, funds for the maintenance of the government are being spent faster than the budget is growing, so it wants to restore the deficit through credit in order to be able to continue to sit in a warm place.


After serious accusations, Bismarck felt insulted and sent seconds to Virchow to challenge him to a duel. A man of science was found in his laboratory working on a difficult experiment to destroy Trichinella, which led to disastrous consequences in Germany.

“Oh, ” said the doctor, “a challenge from Prince Bismarck? Since I am the party being called, I can choose a weapon, right? Here it is!" He took two large sausages, seemingly exactly the same. “One of these sausages contains Trichinella - it's deadly. The other is clean. Outwardly, they are no different. May His Excellency do me the honor of choosing one and eating it. I'll eat another one. "

You may have never heard such a name as trichinosis, but you know about the disease itself. It can be spread by eating raw or undercooked pork containing the roundworm Trichinella spiral. Within 10 days after infection, there is intense muscle pain, difficulty breathing, weakening of the pulse and blood pressure, heart damage and various nervous disorders. Ultimately, the disease leads to death due to heart failure, respiratory complications, or kidney failure.

Rudolf Vikhrov

Quite an unpleasant picture. Unsurprisingly, Bismarck refused to fight the Trichinella. Moreover, the chancellor himself probably thought it was poison, not a worm. The very name Trichinella sounds very ominous, especially from the lips of a doctor.

The case is almost unique: a rational man of science, Rudolf Vikhrov, outwitted an influential minister, Otto von Bismarck. There is only one problem. It seems that everything was not quite so.

This case had a great resonance in society. Vikhrov's supporters were against the duel, since they did not believe that Bismarck had been insulted during the debate. Moreover, as a result of a duel, the party could well be left without a leader. Vikhrov himself could not evade, because in those days it would have become a dishonor for him in the eyes of society. As a result, the issue had to be resolved through diplomacy ...

Here is what the surviving original of Virchow's letter to Bismarck reads:

(No date. Postmark - July 8, 1965, 9:00)

Your Excellency, I ask you to respond to the message conveyed by Herr von Hennig to Herr von Keudell (representatives of Vikhrov and Bismarck) on my behalf:

1. I refuse to duel.

2. I am ready to make the statement in the House required by the Minister-President, as soon as I receive the assurances of the Minister-President that there was no personal insult directed at the members of the committee during the speech on Hannibal Fischer.

I did the impossible by making this concession, and I will be glad if further negotiations in terms of the wording of the statement are carried out, as before, through Herr von Hennig.

Please accept the assurances of my immense respect, with which I subscribe.

Your Most Respected Excellency

R. Virkhov, Member of the Parliament of Deputies.

So Virkhov refused to take part in the duel and, it seems, even apologized, without tarnishing his reputation.

So what does this give us? It seems that the sausage story was invented many years after the events described took place.