(March 14, 1854 – August 20, 1915)
Paul Ehrlich was born a day before Emil von Behring, the clinician who won the first medicine/physiology Nobel Prize in 1901, for developing diphtheria antiserum. Ehrlich (who later won the 1908 Prize) was also one-quarter of a century older than Albert Einstein. And like Einstein, he was among the top scientists of his generation. Regardless of whom you are, where you live and what you do, your life depends on his contributions to science more than it does to anything Einstein contributed. Influenced by Robert Koch, Paul Ehrlich is famous for his groundbreaking works in immunology and chemotherapy. He was the first person to accurately describe the mechanism of antibody formation. This enabled him set-up the criteria which therapeutic sera must meet. He also pioneered potent chemotherapies, which he gave the “magic bullet” euphemism. His 19th century research-findings opened the door to unprecedented knowhow and discoveries, which improved both lifespan and quality of life in the 20th century. Dreaded diseases such as diphtheria and syphilis, whose mortality rates were astronomical in the previous centuries, were eventually curtailed. Besides, it was in his lab in 1907 that Albert Bertheim first produced arsphenamine (also known as Salvarsan). Two years afterwards, Sahachiro Hata successfully demonstrated its efficacy against Treponema pallidum: the etiological agent of syphilis. Although Ehrlich made several other contributions to medicine, the most renowned were in combating pathogens through immunology and chemotherapy. His role in improving our well-being cannot be overemphasized. A crater on the moon’s northern hemisphere is named after him.