The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1956
Born: 29 August 1904, Berlin, Germany
Died: 1 June 1979, Schopfheim, West Germany (now Germany)
Affiliation at the time of the award: Mainz University, Mainz, Germany
Prize motivation: “for their discoveries concerning heart catheterization and pathological changes in the circulatory system”
Prize share: 1/3
Werner Forssmann was born in Berlin, where he also studied medicine. As a newly educated doctor, he served in Eberswalde and conducted his Nobel Prize-awarded experiment there in 1929. His experimentation met resistance, however, which impeded continued research in the field. After being chief surgeon in Dresden and Berlin, Forssmann served as a doctor in the army during World War II. After the war ended, he worked as a district medical officer, among other things. Forssmann and his wife, also a doctor, had six children.
In 1929 the physician Werner Forssmann saw a picture in a book showing how a tube was inserted into the heart of a horse through a vein. A balloon at the other end of the tube showed changes in pressure. Forssmann was convinced that a similar experiment could be carried out on people. Despite the fact that his boss forbade him, Forssmann conducted the experiment on himself. From the crook of his arm he inserted a thin catheter through a vein into his heart and took an X-ray photo. The experiment paved the way for many types of heart studies.
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