Nobel Prize Award for Physiology and Medicine 1901 to 1904

About the Nobel Prize Award for Physiology and Medicine from 1901 to 1904 including the scientists von Behring and Pavlov, their works, and history.


1901 Emil A. von Behring (1854-1917), German

Work: Pioneer work in immunology, especially in the prevention and cure of diphtheria

Nobel Laureate: Born in East Prussia, Dr. Behring began practice as a surgeon in the Prussian army. In 1889 he joined the Institute of Hygiene in Berlin as assistant to pioneer bacteriologist Robert Koch. Together with Japanese bacteriologist Shibasaburo Kitazato, he began searching for a cure for diphtheria. Inside a run-down building on Berlin's Schumann-strasse, Behring, under the approving eye of Dr. Koch, filled thousands of guinea pigs with diphtheria germs and watched them die a quick, painful death. Finally, he discovered that the diphtheria bacillus produced a poison which killed its victims. From this he developed iodine trichloride as a diphtheria retardant. Later he proved that blood serum mixed with diphtheria poison yielded an antitoxin (a word he coined) capable of curing diphtheria as well as preventing it. He first demonstrated his antitoxin on a human child in 1891. Behring also developed a tetanus antitoxin. Besides earning him the Nobel Prize, his work propelled him into the ranks of German nobility.

Nobel Lore: Passed over by the Nobel committee were Behring's mentor, Robert Koch, and the father of antiseptic surgery, Joseph Lister, mainly because their discoveries, though every bit as important as Behring's, had taken place too long before to qualify.

1902 Ronald Ross (1857-1932), British

Work: Singled out the anopheles mosquito as the transmitter of malaria, thus paving the way for the control of that disease

1903 Niels R. Finsen (1860-1904), Danish

Work: Developed sunlight therapy and successfully treated skin tuberculosis with the use of concentrated ultraviolet rays

1904 Ivan P. Pavlov (1849-1936), Russian

Work: Discovered the nature of gastric juice secretions in the stomach

Nobel Laureate: The son of a Greek Catholic priest, Pavlov was born in Ryazan, Russia, and studied medicine at the University of St. Petersburg and, for two years, in Germany. After a brief stint as professor of pharmacology at a school in Siberia, he transferred to the Russian Military Medical Academy, and in 1895 he joined that institution's physiology department. His research began on cardiovascular functions but eventually centered on the digestive tract. To facilitate study of the secretions of the stomach, he grafted portions of that organ onto the abdominal walls of animals. Dubbed "Pavlov's pouches," the transplanted stomachs enabled him to discover the role gastric juices play in digestion. Of particular interest to him were the "psychic" gastric secretions, caused by the sight or smell of food. This led him to the famous dog experiments, in which he proved that conditioned reflexes control animal behavior. The Soviet government was so thrilled with its celebrated scientist that it built him a special laboratory outside Leningrad. Although Pavlov once produced an elaborate set of mathematical formulas to predict his own death at the age of 115, pneumonia stopped him 28 years short of the mark.

Nobel Lore: Pavlov was the only Russian to win a Nobel Prize before the revolution. Shortly before his death, Nobel had awarded Pavlov a grant to further his experiments.

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