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Julius Wagner-Jauregg

Julius Wagner-JaureggAKA Julius Wagner

Born: 7-Mar-1857
Birthplace: Wels, Austria
Died: 27-Sep-1940
Location of death: Vienna, Austria
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Zentralfriedhof, Vienna, Austria

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Psychiatrist, Scientist

Nationality: Austria
Executive summary: Cured syphilis with malaria, pioneered shock therapy

Military service: Austrian Navy, medical service (1877-78)

When Julius Wagner began dissecting dead animals as a boy, his father suggested that he should become a doctor. His family name was changed to "Wagner-Jauregg" after his father, a career bureaucrat, was elevated to a knighthood by the Austro-Hungarian empire. After medical school, young Wagner-Jauregg took work in a psychiatric clinic, but only after being denied employment at two medical hospitals. With next to no training in mental illnesses, he said he was startled when he was appointed professor of psychiatry at the University of Graz. He became the first psychiatrist to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine, for his "malaria-therapy" (he called it Wagner-Jauregg therapy).

Malaria therapy was a treatment of paresis (a late stage of syphilis, characterized by dementia and paralysis). Patients were injected with organisms that cause malaria, and medical treatment would then be withheld until the patient had undergone several cycles of extreme fevers, caused by the malaria. When medicine was finally administered to treat the malaria, 30-40% of patients also showed marked improvement of their syphilis symptoms. This was the most effective pre-penicillin treatment for advanced syphilis.

Prior to his success with malaria, Wagner had tried inducing fever cures through injections of staphylococci, tuberculin, and typhoid, and researched the effect of fever on psychosis. His other great success was finding that iodine deficiency can lead to thyroid gland problems including goiter, leading Austrian officials to require that minute quantities of iodine be added to table salt.

In World War I, Wagner-Jauregg saw numerous soldiers who had lost the ability to speak due to "shell shock", and he treated them with a radical regimen of electro-convulsive shock therapy. Despite some success with these patients, the application of electricity to the brain was called tantamount to torture, and Wagner-Jauregg was charged with maltreatment of patients. His longtime friend Sigmund Freud was called to testify, and criticized Wagner-Jauregg's methods but said he had not deliberately tortured patients.

He used animal experiments far more than most researchers of his era. Always fascinated with vivisection, he noticed that cats become convulsive and violent when their thyroid gland is removed. He was a public advocate for the rights of the mentally ill, while opposing women's rights. He was a member of Hitler's Nazi Party, and supported forced sterilizations for people with mental illnesses and "criminal genes". Shortly after Wagner-Jauregg's death, the discovery of penicillin led to a better treatment for syphilis, making his most famous work obsolete.

Father: Adolf Johann Wagner (government official, b. 1816, d.)
Mother: Ludovika Jauernigg Ranzoni (d.)
Brother: Fritz Wagner-Jauregg (d.)
Sister: Adolfine Wagner-Jauregg (d.)
Sister: Rosa Wagner-Jauregg (d.)
Wife: Balbine Frumkin Wagner-Jauregg (div., d.)
Wife: Anna Koch Wagner-Jauregg (m. 1899, d.)
Daughter: Julia Humann-Wagner-Jauregg (b. 1900, d.)
Son: Theodor Wagner-Jauregg (professor of chemistry at University of Vienna, b. 1903, d.)

    High School: Das Schottengymnasium, Vienna, Austria (1874)
    University: BA, University of Vienna (1877)
    Medical School: MD, University of Vienna (1880)
    Teacher: Pathology, University of Vienna (1883-85)
    Teacher: Psychiatric Pathology, University of Vienna (1885-89)
    Professor: Neuro-Psychiatry, University of Graz (1889-92)
    Administrator: State Lunatic Asylum at Steinhof (1892-93)
    Professor: Psychiatry and Nervous Diseases, University of Vienna (1893-1928)
    Administrator: State Lunatic Asylum at Steinhof (1902-28)

    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1927
    National Socialist German Workers Party

Author of books:
Life Memories (1938, autobiography)
Baron Constantin von Economo: His Life and Work (1937, biography)
The History of the Malaria Treatment of General Paralysis (1936, non-fiction)


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