One of the most valuable medical Jewish contributions in the world

One of the most valuable medical Jewish contributions in the world

Throughout history, there had been a lot of Jewish that have contributed in different science branches, like chemistry, medicine, physics and many other areas in the world. In medicine, there was a very important contribution from the Jewish physician and biologist Karl Landsteiner, who could determine the existence of different blood groups in humans in 1900. Because of this achievement, he received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1930.

Karl Landsteiner was born in Vienna, Austria in 1868 and died in New York City, the United States in 1943. His biggest achievement consisted in the creation of the actual system of blood categorization, which helped to save people lives that were lost due to blood transfusions incompatibilities in that time. His classification was created based on the prevention of a blood shock in those cases where one person could receive an incompatible blood type in a transfusion causing its dead due to the presence of agglutinins in blood. Besides, in 1937 with another Jewish medic, Alexander Wiener, Landsteiner identified a way to deal with the Rh factor incompatibility in a newborn child.

In addition to the Nobel Prize receiving in 1930, Karl Landsteiner received in 1926 the Aronson Prize, and posthumously, in 1946 the Lasker award for his medical contribution in his career. Besides the creation of the blood categories system and the Rh factor, in 1909 he discovered the Polio virus in the company of Erwin Popper and Constantin Levaditi.

Polio virus, blood groups, and Rh factor

After graduating from medicine at the University of Vienna in 1891, and to study chemistry in Wurzburg, Munich, and Zurich, Landsteiner worked as an assistant in the pathological anatomy institute of the University of Vienna where he did more than 3000 autopsies. Ten years later, he started working as the prosecutor in the Wilhelminenspital in Vienna and as professor of pathological anatomy. In that period, he discovered that poliomyelitis was infectious, so he was able to isolate the polio virus, establishing the foundations to fight with this illness in next generations.

Being still an assistant in the pathological anatomy institute of the University of Vienna, he proposed three different blood groups; A, B, and O. He could establish this classification after seeing how the blood of two different persons agglutinated under its contact, while blood contact between people with the same blood type, did not agglutinate. In 1907 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, Reuben Ottenberg would do the first successful blood transfusion after Landsteiner research.

In co-operation with Alexander Wiener, Landsteiner discovered a blood component that he called Rh factor. They found that a newborn child could affect the Rh of its mother during the gestation period, causing health troubles to her. Because of this, Karl Landsteiner established the foundation to deal with this Rh problem in a neonatal child. This is known as hemolytic anemia. This research was made in 1937, when he was living in New York, United States and working with the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. He arrived there after three years living in Netherlands where he worked as the persecutor of the Catholic St. Joannes de Deo hospital.

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Alexander Solomon Wiener

Alexander Wiener was born on March 16, 1907, and died on November 6, 1976, in New York, United States. He was an important medic with different contributions to serology, immunology, and forensic medicine. As it was said before, he co-operated with Karl Landsteiner discovering the Rh factor and establishing the methods to deal with hemolytic problems in newborn child and its mother, helping to save uncountable neonatal lives. For his work and research, he was awarded the Lasker Award in 1946.

Besides the contribution to medicine field with the Rh factor discovering, Wiener made different contributions in the forensic field. Working with Landsteiner, he established the blood “fingerprints” concept; a unique blood pattern in each person. This single profile could be analyzed and used in criminal cases or police investigations. Also, this blood “fingerprint” could be used in paternity cases due to the unique factor existing in each person’s blood. Wiener also studied about the genetic in the Rh factor. That was a theory similar to the actual DNA structure, and it referred to the inherited genes which are present in the Rh structure. He defined the CDE nomenclature, which denotes three present factors in the blood (rh’, Rh(o), and hr’).

Image courtesy of ec-jpr at
Image courtesy of ec-jpr at

These two Jewish gave to the world an amazing contribution. Their discoveries of the blood groups and the Rh factor, not only gave to future generations the possibility to know about different blood types in people, but also contributed to saving innumerable lives in blood transfusions. Furthermore, they contributed to criminal investigations from the medical knowledge in blood patterns. In addition, with the Rh factor research, Landsteiner and Wiener helped to save countless newborn and pregnant mothers lives, dealing with hemolytic diseases.