Emil von Behring

Emil von Behring
(1854 - 1917)

German bacteriologist who is considered the founder of the science of immunology. In 1901 he received the first Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his work on serum therapy, especially its application against diphtheria.
Behring served with the Army Medical Corps before becoming assistant (1889) at Robert Koch's Institute of Hygiene, Berlin. There, with the Japanese bacteriologist Kitasato Shibasaburo, he showed that it was possible to provide an animal with passive immunity against tetanus by injecting it with the blood serum of another animal infected with the disease. In collaboration with Paul Ehrlich, Behring then applied this technique of antitoxic immunity (a term which he and Kitasato originated) to prevent diphtheria. The administration of diphtheria antitoxin, which was successfully marketed in 1892, became a routine part of the treatment of the disease.

Behring taught at Halle (1894) and at Marburg (1895). He became financially involved with the Farbwerke Meister, Lucius und Bruning in Hochst, a dyeworks that provided laboratories for his researches, which included studies of tuberculosis. He devised a vaccine (bovovaccine) for immunization of calves against the disease.

His writings include Die praktischen Ziele der Blutserumtherapie (1892; "The Practical Goals of Blood Serum Therapy") and Atiologie und atiologische Therapie des Tetanus (1904; "The Etiology and Etiological Therapy of Tetanus").

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