Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang (1902-1976) was an internationally renowned occupational physician and a director of the Swiss Institute for Accident Insurance (Suva) for many years.

Lang was born into a working class family; his father was a lithographer in Zurich. He completed his studies in medicine in Zurich and, after earning his doctorate in 1927, worked at various clinics in Switzerland and abroad. In 1932, he obtained a post as a doctor in the central administration of Suva. Lang pursued two careers in the following years: as both a scientist and as a Suva physician. In 1936, he was promoted to deputy director of the medical department of Suva (the senior physician of Suva). In 1951, he assumed the office of senior physician from his trade union-friendly predecessor, Fritz Zollinger (1884-1950).

After serving as senior physician for three years, Lang was appointed director of Suva in 1954. Lang was the only physician to become Suva director until 2013, a position traditionally held by actuarial mathematicians. Lang was considered a consensual figure upon his appointment. At the same time, no suitable lawyer or actuarial mathematician was able to stand as an alternative candidate. Lang also followed in the tradition of social democratic Suva directors that started with the appointment of Arnold Bohren in 1936; he therefore had no reservations liaising with unions. Relations between Suva and social policy partners eased during his sixteen years as director (1954-1970). Suva became a popular institution during the early post-war period and embodied the welfare state equivalent of social partnership and labour peace in Switzerland, thanks in part to its tripartite executive committee in which employees, employers and authorities were equally represented.

As an insurance physician, Lang was considered to be an internationally renowned expert for dust-related lung diseases (such as silicosis) which put a heavy burden on Suva in the 1950s and 1960s. During the course of his scientific career, Lang obtained a lecturer qualification (Habilitation) at the University of Zurich in 1941 and worked as a lecturer there for seven years. In 1948, he was appointed associate professor by the University of Basel. He returned to the University of Zurich in 1951 for an associate professorship. He held these academic positions while working at Suva. In 1970, following his resignation as Suva director, he was promoted to a full professorship at the University of Zurich.

Literatur / Bibliographie / Bibliografia / References: Lengwiler, Martin (2006), Risikopolitik im Sozialstaat. Die schweizerische Unfallversicherung 1870-1970, Köln.