Ruth Pfau

Ruth Katherina Martha Pfau was a German–Pakistani Catholic nun of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, and a physician.

Ruth Pfau was a German-Pakistani Catholic nun of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, and a physician. She moved from Germany to Pakistan in 1961 and devoted more than 55 years of her life to fighting leprosy in Pakistan. Pakistan honored her with a range of awards including the Hilal-i-Pakistan, Hilal-i-Imtiaz, Nishan-i-Quaid-i-Azam, and the Sitara-i-Quaid-i-Azam.

Known as “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa”, Pfau contributed to the establishment of 157 leprosy clinics across Pakistan that treated over 56,780 people. To know about the Ruth Pfau, scroll the page below!

Why is Ruth Pfau being honored with a Google Doodle?


Ruth Pfau dedicated years of her life to the people of Pakistan. Her influence was considered so profound that when she died in 2017, the country’s then-Prime Minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, said Dr. Pfau “may have been born in Germany, but her heart was always in Pakistan.”

Ensuring she left a lasting legacy, Dr. Pfau founded Pakistan’s National Leprosy Control Program and the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center, which has a presence in every Pakistani province.

She went on to receive an accolade of honors for her work, including the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, Pakistan’s second-highest civilian award in 1979, the Hilal-e-Pakistan in 1989 and the German Staufer Medal in 2015.

Dr. Pfau wrote four books in German about her work in Pakistan, including To Light A Candle, which has been translated into English. In the years following her death, Dr. Pfau will be remembered as a medical pioneer and altruistic humanitarian. “Not all of us can prevent a war,” she once said, “but most of us can help ease sufferings of the body and the soul.

For her medical pioneer and altruistic humanitarian work, on September 9th, 2019, Google is honoring German doctor Ruth Pfau on her 90th birth anniversary with a Doodle, commemorating her dedication to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan. The Google Doodle, to honor her immensely significant contribution to fighting the disease, shows an animation of Dr. Ruth Pfau looking after a leprosy patient as the sun sets behind them.

Where is Ruth Pfau born? When Ruth Pfau began her career as a physician?

Recalling her early life, Ruth Pfau was born in Leipzig, Germany, to Lutheran Christian parents. She had four sisters and one brother. Her home was destroyed by bombing during World War II. She moved to West Germany along with her family and chose medicine as her future career.

During the 1950s, she studied medicine at the University of Mainz. After completing her clinical examination, she moved to Marburg to carry on her clinical studies. She was baptized as an Evangelical Protestant in 1951, before her conversion to Roman Catholicism in 1953. In 1957, she traveled to Paris and joined the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, a Catholic order.

Later, the order sent her to southern India, however in 1960, a visa issue meant she had to stay in Karachi. She traveled to various parts of Pakistan and across the border to Afghanistan to rescue patients who were abandoned by their families or locked in small rooms for a lifetime.


How Ruth Pfau help to become the Pakistan one of the first countries in Asia to have controlled leprosy?

Dr. Ruth Pfau decided to dedicate the rest of her life to the people of Pakistan and their battle against leprosy outbreaks. She decided that the care of patients would be her life’s calling. She started medical treatment for the leprosy patients in a hut in this area. The Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre was founded and social work for the leprosy patients and their family members was started by DR I K Gill. A leprosy clinic was bought in April 1963 and patients from all over Karachi, from elsewhere in Pakistan, and even from Afghanistan came for treatment.

In 1979, she was appointed as the Federal Advisor on Leprosy to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Government of Pakistan. She went to distant areas of Pakistan where there were no medical facilities for Leprosy patient. She collected donations in Germany and Pakistan and co-operated with hospitals in Rawalpindi and Karachi. In 1988, she was awarded Pakistani citizenship.

In 1996, the World Health Organization declared Pakistan one of the first countries in Asia to have controlled leprosy. On September 9, 1999, the Archbishop of Karachi, Simeon Anthony Pereira, celebrated a Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to celebrate Pfau’s 70the birthday, which was attended by both Christians and Muslims.


What are the lifetime achievements of Ruth Pfau?

  • Pfau is recognized in Pakistan and abroad as a distinguished human being, and had been awarded many awards and medals. On 23 March 1989, she received the Hilal-i-Pakistan award presented by the then-President of Pakistan Ghulam Ishaq Khan at the President House for her work with leprosy patients.
  • On 30 January 2000 to mark the 47th World Leprosy Day, the then-President Rafiq Tarar praised Pfau, who built up the National Leprosy Control Program in Pakistan, for working not only for those afflicted with leprosy but also for those with tuberculosis. In 2006, she was honored as the ‘Woman of the Year 2006’ by City FM89.
  • On 14 August 2010, on the occasion of Pakistan’s Independence Day, the then-President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari awarded Pfau the Nishan-i-Quaid-i-Azam for public service. She was hailed as Pakistan’s “Mother Teresa” after her work towards helping people displaced by the 2010 Pakistan floods. In 2015, she was awarded the Staufer Medal, the highest award of the German state of Baden-Württemberg.
  • On 19 August 2017, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah announced the renaming of the Civil Hospital Karachi to Dr. Ruth Pfau Hospital as an acknowledgment of “selfless services of the late social servant”
  • In September 2019, Google honored her with a Google Doodle of her treating a patient.

What is the reason behind Ruth Pfau death?

Dr. Ruth Pfau died at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi after being admitted there due to respiratory problems on August 4, 2017. She was put on a ventilator after her condition worsened on August 6. She had been dealing with several health problems due to her advanced age, including kidney and heart disease, for which she had been undergoing treatment for several years.

Pfau’s body lay in state at the Holy Family Hospital in Karachi ahead of the funeral on September 19, 2017. The state funeral for Pfau was held at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, in front of which the flags of Pakistan and Vatican City were flown at half-mast, with Archbishop Joseph Coutts presiding over the Requiem. The Pakistani flag was draped over her coffin and a 19-gun salute was offered by contingents of all three wings of the Pakistan Armed Forces. The ceremony was broadcast live on Pakistan Television. She was reportedly the first Christian and first non-Muslim to have a state funeral in Pakistan. She was then buried at Gora Qabaristan, a Christian cemetery in Karachi.


Is Ruth Pfau married is not?

Reflecting her personal life, Ruth Pfau is Catholic nun of the Society of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary. That’s why there is no chance to get married. So, she was unmarried her lifetime and serve as a physician to various parts of Southern Asia to help the people. She was called “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa” due to her humanitarian works in Pakistan.

How tall is Ruth Pfau?

Before her death, Ruth Pfau has a height of 5 feet 4 inches and weighs around 55 kg. She has a pair of hazel brown eyes and white hair color. Her other body information is yet to be disclosed. In the case of an update, we will let you know.

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