Harald Hirschsprung was a native of Copenhagen.
Hirschsprung, an intelligent student in high school, chose to become a doctor instead of taking over his father’s tobaccofactory. He passed his acceptance exam for university in 1848 and passed the Staatsexamen in 1855. He was interested in rare diseases concerning the gut throughout his life, and one such, atresia of theoesophagus and small bowel, was the subject of his doctoral thesis, presented in May 1861.
He became the first Danish pediatrician in 1870, when he was appointed to a hospital for neonates. In 1879, he was made the chief physician at the Queen Louisa Hospital for Children, which opened in 1879. He was appointed a professor of pediatrics in 1891.
Hirschsprung taught small classes on Sunday mornings between 9 and 11, to ensure that only truly dedicated students would come. He was not a great teacher, however, having problems with public speaking and a penchant to focus on rare cases rather than those most beneficial to general practice.
Hirschsprung got free health care for poor children while continuing to require patients of more able means to pay. He also went against the wishes of the queen, the hospital’s namesake, in his insistence that pictures of animals, rather than biblical text, be placed above each child’s bed.
In 1904, when he was 74 years old, Hirschsprung was forced to resign from his practice due to “cerebral sclerosis.” He continued his study of what would later come to be called Hirschsprung’s disease until his poor health prevented him, and lived out his retirement in his country house in Öresund. Whonamedit.com says that: “After the death of his wife in 1910 his life was darkened by a progrediating sclerosis.”