Austrian embryologist; born at Urmény, Comitat Neutra, Hungary, Aug. 23, 1840; died at Schwanberg, Styria, Aug. 18, 1902. Having studied at the University of Vienna (M.D. 1865), he was for the following eight years assistant at the physiological institute of his alma mater, receiving the "venia legendi" in 1868. In 1873 he became professor of embryology at the University of Vienna.
Schenk holds an important position in the medical world on account of his numerous contributions to embryology. Through one of them, "Einfluss auf das Geschlechtsverhältniss des Menschen und derThiere" (Vienna and Magdeburg, 1898; American translation, "The Determination of Sex," Akron, O., 1898), his name became a household word throughout the civilized world. Having been an embryologist for over thirty years, he had made careful studies of the generative process, and came to the conclusion that the sex of a child depends on the kind of nourishment partaken of by the mother. This theory was severely criticized by his own faculty and by such men as Virchow, Gusserow, Winkel, Pflüger, Roux, Munk, and Born; and he was finally forced to resign his chair (1900). Schenk, however, clung to his theory and claimed further that the foundation for special capacities of the child can be laid in the embryo through special nutrition given to the mother; and that by avoiding certain conditions and by feeding on certain foods the mother can save the future child from the life of a degenerate. His three cardinal conclusions were, therefore, that it was possible (1) to determine the future sex of the child; (2) to determine its future profession; and (3) to beget only normal offspring. Further elaborations of his theory were prevented by his early death.
Of Schenk's other writings the following may be mentioned: "Lehrbuch der Vergleichenden Embryologie der Wirbelthiere," Vienna, 1874; "Lehrbuch der Histologie des Menschen," ib. 1885 (2d ed. 1892); "Lehrbuch der Bacteriologie," ib. 1894; Lehrbuch der Embryologie," ib. 1896.
It was through Schenk's influence that there was added to the medical faculty of the Vienna University a department for embryology, in which subject he became the founder of a school.