Today I wanted to switch things up and start” scientist of the day”. I will try to do one of these post every once in a while to highlight a scientist who has done remarkable research in the field of medicine.
The first scientist featured in this series is Gerhard Domagk. He was born in 1895 in what is now known as Poland. He studied medicine but when the war started, he volunteered as soldier without finishing his degree. When he got injured he ended up in a war hospital where he saw most soldiers die of infection diseases. What really made an impact was that there really was no functional treatment for these diseases. Sometimes they would try to amputate limbs, but surgery didn’t always work nor did medication.
After the war he got degree in medicine and made it his priority to find something that could prevent soldiers dying from these infection diseases. He worked alongside Josef Klarer and Fritz Mietzsch (both chemists) and together they tested the function of hundreds of different self made molecules in mice and rabbits to find a substance that could fight infections.
Eventually in 1932 they found a component in red dye that was called sulfamidochrysoïdine and which protected mice against certain types of streps. They named it Prontosil. Because. they didn’t quite know how or why Prontosil worked and what it did in the human body, they were very cautious and it took them 5 years to publish an article about the results they’d made with Prontosil, they even asked a patent.
But the story took an unexpected turn. Prontosil, the drug they’d made was only effective because it was broken down in the body to sulfanilamide. Sulfanilamide was a cheap drug that was available everywhere.
Nevertheless Domagk received the nobel price in physiology or medicine in 1939. However he couldn’t collect this prize because the Nazi-regime considered the Nobel prize to be anti-German. After the war he was finally able to collect his prize in 1947.
I hope you enjoyed this little article I’d strongly recommend reading ‘the demon under the microscope’ written by Thomas Hager. The book talks about many different scientists and important figures who were a part of this part of history.
And as always, leave your book suggestions in the comment section down below. I’d love to read them!
Lots of love
-A doctor in spe