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Karl Landsteiner

Karl LandsteinerBorn: 14-Jun-1868
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: 26-Jun-1943
Location of death: New York City
Cause of death: Heart Failure
Remains: Buried, Prospect Hill Cemetery, Nantucket, MA

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Scientist, Doctor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Discovered blood typing

Pathologist and immunologist Karl Landsteiner studied under Emil Fischer, discovered the different human blood types in 1901, and introduced a system for typing the first three blood groups. At the time of his research blood transfusions were considered risky and experimental, as more often than not transfusions led to potentially fatal blood clotting in the recipient's body. In research designed to understand the cause of this reaction, Landsteiner collected a large number of blood samples, separated the blood's serum from its cells and suspended the red blood cells in a saline solution. Each individual's blood serum was then mixed with a sample from every cell suspension, allowing Landsteiner to note which blood samples caused the clotting reaction and which did not.

He proposed the existence of agglutinogens (antigens), which he called A and B, in blood corpuscles, and agglutinins (antibodies) called anti-a and anti-b in blood serum. The first three blood types he identified were named A, B, and C (later renamed type O; the ABO-system of blood group identification is still called Landsteiner's classification), and he soon discovered a fourth blood type, AB.

His discovery allowed blood types of donors and recipients to be matched before transfusions, which made blood transfusions a routine medical procedure, saved countless lives, and earned Landsteiner the 1930 Nobel Prize for Medicine. In 1909, with biologist Erwin Popper (1879-1955), he discovered the infectious nature of poliomyelitis (the polio virus). In 1927, with pathologist Philip Levine (1900-1987), he discovered the M and N agglutinogens. In 1940, with pathologist Alexander Wiener (1907-1976), he discovered the rhesus (Rh) factor in blood. While working in his laboratory on 24 June 1943, Landsteiner suffered a heart attack, and died from its after-effects two days later.

Father: Leopold Landsteiner (newspaper publisher, d. 1874)
Mother: Fanny Hess Landsteiner (m. 1857)
Wife: Helene Wlasto Landsteiner (b. 1880, m. 1916, one son)
Son: Ernst Karl Landsteiner (physician)

    High School: Wasagasse Austrian Imperial High School, Vienna, Austria (1885)
    Medical School: MD, University of Vienna (1891)
    Scholar: Chemistry, University of Zurich (1891-93)
    Scholar: Chemistry, University of Würzburg (1893-94)
    Scholar: Chemistry, University of Munich (1894-96)
    Scholar: Hygiene Institute, University of Vienna (1896-98)
    Scholar: Pathological Anatomy, University of Vienna (1898-1908)
    Teacher: Morbid Pathology, Wilhelm Hospital, Vienna, Austria (1908-19)
    Professor: Pathological Anatomy, University of Vienna (1911-19)
    Professor: Morbid Pathology, St Joannes de Deo Hospital, The Hague, Netherlands (1919-22)
    Professor: Rockefeller University (1922-43)

    Nobel Prize for Medicine 1930
    Royal Society
    Austrian Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry
    Converted to Catholicism from Judaism
    Naturalized US Citizen 1929
    Heart Attack 24-Jun-1943 (fatal)

Author of books:
The Specificity of Serological Reactions (1936, medicine)


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