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Emil Adolf von Behring was a German physiologist and immunologist awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1901.
See the fact file below for more information on Emil Adolf von Behring or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Emil Adolf von Behring worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Emil Adolf von Behring was born on March 15, 1854 at Hansdorf, Deutsch-Eylau. He is the eldest son of the second wife of a schoolmaster. His father had a total of 13 children.
- He studied medicine at the Army Medical College as his family could hardly afford to enroll him in the University. It was the most practical option for him, but it also required him to stay in the military service after he graduated. He had taken his medical degree in 1878 and passed the State Examination in 1880.
- In 1878, he was sent to Poland as part of his military service to work as an assistant surgeon and research septic diseases at the Chemical Department of the Experimental Station.
Career Before His Discovery
- From 1881 to 1883, he managed to carry out investigations on the use of iodoform. He published his findings that iodoform does not kill microbes but can neutralize the poisons given off them, thus being antitoxic.
- Upon finding out about Behring’s ability, The military health department, which was especially interested in combating epidemics, sent Behring to the pharmacologist C. Binz at Bonn to train in experimental methods using animals.
- Behring returned to Berlin in 1888 and worked as an assistant at the Institute for Infectious Diseases under Robert Koch. In 1890, Paul Ehrlich joined them.
- In 1894, Behring became Professor of Hygiene at Halle and moved on to become director of the Institute of Hygiene at the Philipps University of Marburg.
Behring’s Work In Diphtheria
- Behring worked with Koch for years to prove his theory that antitoxins could help fight diseases, particularly diphtheria. He also collaborated with Shibasaburo Kitasato, a guest researcher from Tokyo University, to identify substances that provide resistance against tetanus in rabbits.
- Diphtheria, which thrives in poor sanitary conditions, was the cause of death of over 60,000 children every year in the 19th century.
- Additionally, tetanus, an infection that came from a bacterium that lives in the soil, was the leading cause of death in wars as it kills the wounded.
Behring’s Work On Diphtheria
- Kitasato and Behring published an article in 1890, reporting that they had developed “antitoxins” for both diphtheria and tetanus.
- They call this process serum therapy and described it as a way to induce permanent immunity or “to stimulate the body’s internal disinfection.”
- In 1891, Behring worked with Dr. Erich Wernicke to carry out the serum therapy theory. They did it by injecting diphtheria and tetanus antitoxins into guinea pigs, goats, and horses for them to develop immunity. They then derived antitoxins from their serum.
- They started their human trials on diphtheria antitoxin in 1892 and invested their own money in it. They then received funding from Farbweke Hoescht in exchange for the rights to produce and distribute the serum. Two years later, Farbweke Hoescht became the primary supplier of the diphtheria serum.
- Their challenges, however, did not stop after that. Behring had a hard time producing large quantities of serum, so he turned to a vet school to solve his problem.
- Another problem that they needed to work out was serum potency. In 1897, Paul Ehrlich discovered that the potency of the antitoxin might reach its maximum level after a certain amount of time.
- This knowledge helped standardized the serum. The mortality of diphtheria has dropped since then.
- In 1913, Behring devised a new toxin-antitoxin preparation that provides increased immunity to diphtheria, a vaccine called diphtheria AT.
Behring And Ehrlich
- Behring and Ehrlich both developed a diphtheria serum by repeatedly injecting the deadly toxin into a horse. Some people believed that Behring had cheated Ehrlich out of recognition and financial reward in their collaborative research in diphtheria.
- There was a story that Behring maneuvered to get all the financial rewards when a chemical company offered both Ehrlich and Behring a contract to undertake commercial production and marketing of diphtheria serum.
- Behring also received the First Nobel Prize for his contribution to medicine for this discovery. However, Ehrlich would eventually receive his own Nobel Prize for his work in Immunology.
- In 1896, Behring married the 20-year-old daughter of the Director of Charite at Berlin, Else Spinola. They had six sons.
- After receiving his Nobel Prize, Behring’s health prevented him from giving regular lectures. He instead devoted himself to the study of tuberculosis. It was funded by a commercial firm in which he had a financial interest and built him a well-equipped laboratory at Marburg.
- In 1914, he founded Behringwerke, a company that manufactures sera and vaccines and does experimental works on these.
- This venture made him financially prosperous. He was able to own a large estate in Marburg, which was well stocked with cows that he used for his experiments.
Emil Adolf von Behring Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle that includes everything you need to know about Russell Wilson across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Emil Adolf von Behring worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Emil Adolf von Behring who in 1901 discovered the diphtheria antitoxin which prevented the deaths of many children.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Emil Adolf von Behring Facts
- Behring’s Life
- The Cure
- Four Words
- Developing an Antitoxin
- Starting a Career
- Behring: Fact or Bluff
- The Importance of Vaccine
- The Two Doctors
- The Antitoxin Team
- Another Use of Animals
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