While the world is still looking for a vaccine to combat the coronavirus, there have been many eminent scientists in the past that have advanced the life expectancy of the human race because of their pioneering work into treatments for diseases and medical conditions.
Several such scientists and researchers have received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their groundbreaking work on vaccines and treatments for several diseases. In this article, we discuss the life and works of a few such scientists.
Emil Adolf von Behring – 1901
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1901 was awarded to Emil Adolf von Behring “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.”
Born in 15th March 1854 in current day Poland, Emil von Behring was a physiologist and was the first ever to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. He demonstrated by his experiments that antibodies could be transferred from one person or animal to another by means of blood plasma or serum. This process caused the recipient also to become immune to a particular disease.
To cure diptheria – a bacterial infection, Behring introduced serum from horses into humans and he was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Medicine for this innovative discovery.
Ronald Ross – 1902
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1902 was awarded to Ronald Ross “for his work on malaria, by which he has shown how it enters the organism and thereby has laid the foundation for successful research on this disease and methods of combating it.”
Born on 13th May, 1857 in India, Ronald Ross was instrumental in bringing about an understanding of insect-borne diseases. He also proved the role of the Anopheles mosquito in the transmission of the malaria parasite in human beings. This knowledge laid the foundation for developing an effective method of combating the disease. Throughout his life, he worked on the ways to prevent the occurrence of malaria across the world.
He also held the position of Director in Chief of the Ross Institute and Hospital of Tropical Diseases and Hygiene, an organization established to honour his works, till his death.
However, Ross was also a polymath, who wrote poems, composed songs, and published novels. Apart from this, he was also a painter and a mathematician.
Sir Alexander Fleming, Ernst Boris Chain and Sir Howard Walter Florey – 1945
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1945 was awarded jointly to Sir Alexander Fleming, Ernst Boris Chain and Sir Howard Walter Florey “for the discovery of penicillin and its curative effect in various infectious diseases.”
Born on 6th August 1881 in Scotland, Sir Alexander Fleming was instrumental in the discovery of penicillin, an antibiotic that is a mainstay in treating bacterial infections. The discovery process of penicillin is also worth reading! Fleming would often leave bowls with bacteria cultures around his worktable. Once, he noticed that apart from bacteria, a fungus mold also began growing, which hampered the growth of the bacteria. This discovery helped him infer that the mold contained a substance that could effective stop bacterial growth. And he called this substance penicillin.
After Sir Fleming discovered penicillin, the next step was to use it effectively in the pharmaceutical industry. However, creating penicillin in its pure form was not an easy task because of its instability.
Researchers Ernst Chain and Howard Florey successfully produced penicillin in its pure form, which subsequently led to the production of this antibiotic in large quantities for use in the pharmaceutical industry.
Max Theiler – 1951
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1951 was awarded to Max Theiler “for his discoveries concerning yellow fever and how to combat it.”
Born on 30th January 1899 in South Africa, Theiler was awarded the Nobel Prize for developing a vaccine for yellow fever, which was known to be a deadly disease in the tropics. Yellow fever is caused by a virus and Theiler was successful in transmitting the virus to mice. When this virus was successfully transmitted between mice, Theiler discovered a weakened form of the virus that could make apes immune. Subsequently, a much weaker form of the virus called 17D was discovered, which could be used as a human vaccine.
Selman Abraham Waksman – 1952
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1952 was awarded to Selman Abraham Waksman “for his discovery of streptomycin, the first antibiotic effective against tuberculosis.”
Born on 22nd July 1888, Selman Waksman was an inventor, biochemist, and microbiologist. His path breaking research into the decomposition of organisms that live in soil was instrumental in the discovery of streptomycin, an antibiotic used to treat a wide range of bacterial infections. He was also successful in isolating numerous new antibiotics that include actinomycin (1940), clavacin, streptothricin (1942), streptomycin (1943), grisein (1946), neomycin (1948), fradicin, candicidin, candidin, and others.
Isn’t it inspiring to read about these legends in the field of science and medicine? Do let us know your views on this piece in the comments section below.