Who was Rudolf Weigl?
Rudolf Weigl, 2 September 1883 – 11 August 1957, was a Polish biologist, physician, and inventor. He is most known for creating the first effective vaccine against epidemic typhus. He founded the Weigl Institute in Lwów (now Lviv), where he conducted vaccine research.
Weigl worked during the Holocaust to save the lives of many Jewish men and women, not only developing a vaccine for typhus but also providing shelter for Jews, in order to protect them from execution by the Nazis.
Google Doodle celebrates Polish inventor Rudolf Weigl’s 138th birthday
Google Doodle celebrated Polish inventor, doctor, and immunologist Rudolf Weigl’s 138th birthday on September 2 with an animated graphic. Rudolf Weigl is renowned for producing the first effective vaccine against epidemic typhus, which is one of the oldest and most infectious diseases.
In today’s special Google Doodle, Rudolf Weigl is seen holding a test tube in his gloved hands. There are drawings of lice and a human body on either side of the wall. Google has been spelled on the doodle with bunsen burners, a microscope, and beakers, placed on a lab table.
Rudolf Weigl Biography, Wiki
Rudolf Stefan Weigl was born in the Austro-Hungarian town of Przerow (modern-day Czech Republic) on September 2, 1883. The Polish inventor studied biological sciences at Poland’s Lwow University and was appointed as a parasitologist in the Polish Army in 1914.
In Eastern Europe, millions were affected by typhus, owing to which Rudolf Weigl was determined to contain the disease.
“Body lice were known to carry the typhus-infecting bacteria Rickettsia prowazekii, so Weigl adapted the tiny insect into a laboratory specimen. His innovative research revealed how to use lice to propagate the deadly bacteria which he studied for decades with the hope of developing a vaccine. In 1936, Weigl’s vaccine successfully inoculated its first beneficiary. When Germany occupied Poland during the outbreak of the Second World War, Weigl was forced to open a vaccine production plant. He used the facility to hire friends and colleagues at risk of persecution under the new regime,” Google Doodle said on its page.
“Today, Weigl is widely lauded as a remarkable scientist and hero. His work has been honored by not one but two Nobel Prize nominations. From studying a tiny louse to saving thousands of human lives, the impacts your tireless work had on the world are felt to this day—Happy Birthday, Rudolf Weigl,” Google Doodle says.
Vaccine Development by Rudolf Weigl
Rudolf discovered that the body lice are carrying the typhus infecting bacteria called Rickettsia prowazekii. So he adapted a tiny insect into a lab specimen.
Then he conducted research on how to use lice to propagate deadly bacteria which he had been studying for almost 10 years. He had hoped to develop a vaccine for the same and he succeeded in 1936. It was in that year, Rudolf discovered the vaccine successfully and inoculated its very first beneficiary.
Take a look at the picture from the Polish museum with his first vaccine.
During the outbreak of World War 2, Weigl was forced to open a vaccine production plant. He used this facility to hire his friends and colleagues and protected them from persecution as well.
Due to his vaccine, approximately 5000 people were saved. He made direct efforts to protect his neighbors and also distributed thousands of vaccine doses nationwide.
Rudolf Weigl Awards
Rudolf Weigl was nominated for a Nobel Prize twice. In 1942, he was nominated for his invention of the typhus vaccine. Furious that he would not sign the Reichslist, the Germans decided to block his nomination and intercept his application. In 1946, Weigl was a front runner for the Nobel Prize until the Polish government withdrew his application.
The government falsely accused him of collaborating with the Germans following his colleagues’ claims of collaboration as well. He was not nominated again until 1948. His second nomination was once again blocked and never processed for candidacy. This time, the Communist officials stepped in and prevented him from the chance to be awarded the prize. Despite two nominations, he never received a Nobel Prize for his vaccine accomplishments or social work.
A half-century after his death, Weigl’s research, work, and service were recognized by many. In 2003, he was honored as Righteous Among the Nations of the World. This award was given by Israel and commemorated his work for saving countless Jewish lives during World War.
On 2 September 2021, the Google search engine honored Weigl’s 138th birthday with a Doodle.
Rudolf Weigl Death and Legacy
In 1945, Rudolf Weigl moved to Kraków, Poland. He was appointed Chair of the General Microbiology Institute of Jagiellonian University, and later Chair of Biology of the Poznań Medical Faculty. He retired in 1951, but production of his vaccine continued in Kraków for some years until discontinued.
Rudolf Weigl died on 11 August 1957 in the Polish mountain resort of Zakopane. He was 73 years old.
For Weigl’s research and work with typhus at Lviv University, Weigl’s Institute was created within the department of Typhus Research. The Institute features prominently in Andrzej Żuławski’s 1971 film, The Third Part of the Night.
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