Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Emil Theodor Kocher
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1909
Born: 25 August 1841, Berne, Switzerland
Died: 27 July 1917, Berne, Switzerland
Affiliation at the time of the award: Berne University, Berne, Switzerland
Prize motivation: "for his work on the physiology, pathology and surgery of the thyroid gland."
Prize share: 1/1
The thyroid gland is a gland in the neck that is destroyed by goiters, which can lead to difficulty in breathing in serious cases. This led to attempts to remove the gland by surgery. However, this was risky and could result in serious health problems. In 1883 Theodor Kocher shed light on the thyroid gland's function in metabolism, among other things, and showed how surgery could be carried out more safely through good hygiene and minimal blood loss. He also showed that a viable part of the gland needs to be left intact during the operation.