Niels Ryberg Finsen
(1860 - 1904)
Danish physician, founder of modern phototherapy (the treatment of disease
by the influence of light), who received the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physiology
or Medicine for the application of light in the treatment of skin diseases.
While a student at the University of Copenhagen (M.D., 1890), Finsen
became interested in the effects of light on living organisms and in
1893 found that lengthy exposure of smallpox sufferers to the red light
formed by exclusion of the violet end of the spectrum prevents the suppuration
of the pustules, or formation of characteristic pockmarks. Aware of
the bacteria-destroying effects of sunlight, he developed an ultraviolet
treatment for lupus vulgaris, a form of skin tuberculosis, which met
with great success. Although phototherapy has largely been superseded
by other forms of radiation and drug therapy, Finsen's work did much
to encourage the radiation therapy then being developed and led to the
use of ultraviolet sterilization techniques in bacteriological research.
Finsen's Medical Light Institute (now the Finsen Institute) was founded
in Copenhagen in 1896.