Emil Adolf von Behring
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1901
Born: 15 March 1854, Hansdorf, Prussia (now Lawice, Poland)
Died: 31 March 1917, Marburg, Germany
Affiliation at the time of the award: Marburg University, Marburg, Germany
Prize motivation: “for his work on serum therapy, especially its application against diphtheria, by which he has opened a new road in the domain of medical science and thereby placed in the hands of the physician a victorious weapon against illness and deaths”
Prize share: 1/1
Emil von Behring was born in Hansdorf in 1854 and received his education at the Army Medical College in Berlin, where he after some years in Posen, came to work closely with Robert Koch (Medicine Prize in 1905). von Behring primarily studied the tuberculosis and diphteria bacteria. To enable mass production of the serum for diptheria that he developed, von Behring worked closely with the chemical industry. In 1898 he was named professor in Marburg, a position he maintained until he passed.
Many diseases are caused by microorganisms, but the body can use its immune system to defend itself against attacks and become immune to new attacks. As part of its defenses, the immune system forms antibodies that neutralize poisons, or toxins, that are formed by bacteria. Emil von Behring and other researchers showed that by means of blood plasma, or serum, antibodies could be transferred from one person or animal to another person, who also then became immune. In 1900 Behring introduced serum from immune horses as a method to cure and prevent diphtheria.
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