Ninety years ago, in 1908, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Elie Metchnikoff and Paul Ehrlich for ”their work on the theory of immunity”.
Metchnikoff (1845 – 1916) was born in a village near Kharkoff, Russia. He conducted extensive research to explain the mechanisms of disease and immunity. He discovered that the cells in starfish larvae ”attacked” newly introduced foreign bodies, such as wood splinters. In the fresh-water crustacean Daphnia, he found white cells preventing fungal spores from invading. He named these protective white corpuscles “phagocytes” and proposed a similar role for human white cells.
Ehrlich (1854 – 1915) was born into a wealthy family and studied and worked in several German institutions. He improved bacterial staining techniques, proposed the side-chain theory of immunity and methods to enhance antitoxin potency, and developed Salvarsan and Neosalvarsan, the first effective remedies for syphilis. Ehrlich once remarked that four (German) Gs were essential for successs: Geld (money), Geduld (patience), Geschick (cleverness), and Glück (luck).
Raju TNK; The Lancet 1998; 352:661
Comment by a colleague from Jerusalem, Israel:
For someone who spent his life researching immunity and disease, it is both astonishing and ironic that Ehrlich overlooked a fifth (and no less vital) ingredient for success: Gesundheit (health). His co-winner, Elie Metchnikoff, who nearly committed suicide after his brother’s death from cancer and his first wife’s death from tuberculosis, would no doubt have included Gesundheit in any formula for success.
Israeli, A; The Lancet 1998; 352:1712