Paul Ehrlich

(1854—1915) German medical scientist

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German medical scientist who played a vital role in the development of haematology and immunology and was a pioneer in the field of chemotherapy. He encouraged collaboration between research and industry and in 1908 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work on immunity.

Ehrlich was born in Strehlen, Silesia (now Strzelin, Poland), and studied medicine at the University of Leipzig, where – despite having no background in experimental chemistry or applied bacteriology – he carried out independent research in these fields. As a result of his work he was invited to continue his research at the Charité Hospital, Berlin. In 1882 Ehrlich discovered a technique for staining the tuberculosis bacillus that was vital for diagnosis of TB. He also discovered the uses of methylene blue in treating nervous disorders, diagnostic tests for typhoid, and medications for fever. During this period he contracted TB and spent three years recuperating in Egypt. He returned to Berlin in 1889 to take up a post at the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases where, in collaboration with Emil von Behring, he developed a serum against diphtheria.

In 1896 Ehrlich was made director of a new institute for serum studies and in 1899 founded the Royal Institute for Experimental Therapy in Frankfurt. At this time his relationship with Behring deteriorated when he realized the limitations of serum therapy and began to concentrate his researches on chemotherapy. In 1907 he founded the Georg Speyer Haus for chemotherapy and began his important work on syphilis. With his Japanese co-worker, Sahachiro Hata, he eventually (in 1910) found a cure for the disease in Compound 606 (later called Salvarsan), which was the 606th arsenical compound he had tried.

He was given Prussia's highest honour when he was made privy councillor and was awarded honorary degrees from Oxford, Chicago, and Athens.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics.

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