Nobel Prize Recipient. Paul Ehrlich received world-wide notoriety when he was jointly awarded the 1908 Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine with Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov. They were awarded the coveted prize, according to the Nobel Prize committee, "in recognition of their work on immunity." He received 76 nominations for the Nobel Prize in a 10-year period for his successful research. His direct contribution to immunology was the transferring of blood serum with antibodies to treat and counteract diphtheria. He speculated that the cells would have a kind of receptor that binds to harmful substances. The receiving elements are knocked off the cell and become antibodies. Born in a German Jewish family, his great uncle was Karl Weigert, a well-known bacteriologist and his wealthy father was a liquor manufacturer. After finishing local schools, he attended the University of Breslau, University of Strassburg, University of Freiburg-im-Breisgau and the University of Leipzig. In 1878 he earned his Doctorate of Medicine degree by means of a dissertation on the theory and practice of staining animal tissues. In 1878 he was appointed assistant to the aging Professor Frerichs at the Berlin Medical Clinic, where he could continue his research. In 1882 Ehrlich published his method of staining the tubercle bacillus, the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, and this testing is still being used in the 21st century with little modification. In 1882 he became a Titular Professor and in 1887 he qualified, as a result of his thesis “The Need of the Organism for of Oxygen” as a Privatdozent, unpaid lecturer or instructor, in the Faculty of Medicine in the University of Berlin. Later he became an Associate Professor the University of Berlin and Senior House Physician to the Charité Hospital in Berlin. In 1890 he became an assistant at the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin. He had a diagnosis of tuberculosis, traveled to Egypt to recuperate for over a year and was cured with Koch's tuberculin. In 1896 he was made director of the Institute for Control Therapeutics in Berlin. In 1897 Ehrlich was appointed Public Health Officer at Frankfurt-am-Main, and in 1899 the Director of the Royal Institute of Experimental Therapy at Frankfurt along with the Director of the Georg Speyerhaus and devoting himself to the study of chemotherapy, tumors, and cancers. He was known to forget to eat, yet smoke 25 or more cigars a day. He married in 1883 and the couple had two daughters. The stress of World War I brought on a slight stroke during Christmas of 1914, thus he went to Egypt to recuperate, but return home and had a major stroke in August, which took his life. Besides the Nobel Prize, the Prussian government promoted him over time to Real Privy Counsel with the title of Excellency in 1911. He also received the Tiedemann Prize of the Senckenberg Naturforschende Gesellschaft at Frankfurt/Main in 1887, the Prize of Honor at the XVth International Congress of Medicine at Lisbon in 1906, and the Liebig Medal of the German Chemical Society in 1911. His recognition outside of Germany included the Cameron Prize of Edinburgh, Scotland in 1914, from Denmark the Commander Cross of the Danebrog Order, and from Norway the Commander Cross of the Royal St. Olaf Order. He received 81 honors from various medical societies and a dozen honorary degrees from universities around the world. The Ehrlich Institute was situated on the street Paul Ehrlichstrasse in Frankfort, but in the late 1930s when the Jewish persecution began by the Nazi Party, this street name was removed because Ehrlich was Jewish. After World War II, the Polish authorities renamed his birth-place to Ehrlichstadt in honor of its great son. His life story is the plot of the 1940 Hollywood film “Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet.” Given for the first time in 1930, the Paul Ehrlich Foundation awards a gold medallion and monitory prize to scientists who are studying the same fields of research as Ehrlich. Ehrlich's widow established this award.
Bio by: Linda Davis