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.
Their work and discoveries range from the Earth’s climate and our sense of touch to efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.
See them all presented here.