The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1914
Born: 22 April 1876, Vienna, Austria
Died: 8 April 1936, Uppsala, Sweden
Affiliation at the time of the award: Vienna University, Vienna, Austria
Prize motivation: "for his work on the physiology and pathology of the vestibular apparatus."
Robert Bárány received his Nobel Prize one year later, in 1915.
Prize share: 1/1
Robert Bárány came from a Hungarian family but was born in Vienna, where his father worked as a bank official and farm estate manager. Robert Bárány both studied to become a doctor and conducted the research that led to his Nobel Prize in Vienna. When the First World War broke out in 1914, he enlisted as a surgeon in the Austrian army. He was a prisoner of war in Russia when it was announced that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1915, but he was released in 1916 and could accept his prize. Robert Bárány returned to Vienna before eventually immigrating to Sweden. He received a professorship at Uppsala University, where he remained until his death. He was married with three children.
The inner parts of the ear play an important role in helping us maintain balance. Irritation of the inner ear causes vertigo and spasmodic eye movements (nystagmus). Robert Bárány discovered that nystagmus occurred in one direction when he syringed a patient's ear with cold water, and in the opposite direction when he injected warm water. The explanation was that changes in temperature made the fluid in the inner ear's canals rise and fall, respectively. This discovery had a major impact on the treatment of diseases of the inner ear.