Gerhard Domagk


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Paul Ehrlich (1854—1915) German medical scientist



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German bacteriologist and pathologist awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1939 for his discovery of the antibacterial effects of Prontosil, the first sulphonamide drug.

Domagk was born in Brandenburg (now in Poland) and trained in medicine at the University of Kiel. After postgraduate work at the universities of Greifswald (1924) and Münster (1925) he became director of the Bayer Laboratory for Experimental Pathology and Bacteriology at Wuppertal-Elberfeld and in 1928 was made professor of medicine at the University of Münster. Following the lead of Paul Ehrlich, he spent his career searching for chemotherapeutic agents against infections and cancer. At the Bayer works he searched systematically for new dyes and drugs that might destroy infecting organisms without harming the patient. His first major success was the discovery of germanin, which was then the most effective drug against sleeping sickness. His prize-winning work was the discovery that the dye Prontosil was effective against streptococcal bacteria in mice. The active part of the dye was the sulphonamide group and modifications led to the development of drugs that drastically reduced the mortality of pneumonia, puerperal sepsis, and cerebrospinal fever. Domagk was unable to accept his prize because of the policy of the Nazi government in Germany; he was arrested and forced to renounce the award. In 1947 he was given the Gold Medal and Diploma but his achievements had since been eclipsed by the discovery of penicillin and other more potent antibiotics.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics — Contemporary History (Post 1945).