(b. Warsaw, Poland, 5 August 1884; d Wroclaw, Poland, 7 March 1957)
After attending the Gymnasium in Lodz, Hirszfeld, born into a Jewish family and later a covert to Catholicis, decided to study medicine in Germany. In 1902 he entered the University of Würzburg and transferred in 1904 to Berlin, where he attended lectures in medicine and philosophy. Hirszfeld completed his doctoral dissetation, “Über Blutagglutination,” in 1907, thus taking the first he became a junior assistant in cancer research at the Heidelberg Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, where E. von Dungern was his department head. Hirszfeld soon formed a close personal friendship with Dungern which proved to be scientifically fruitful. At Heidelberg they did the first joint work on animal and human blood group which, in 1900, had been identified as isoagglutinins by Karl Landsteiner.
Hirszfeld gradually found the working conditions at Heidelberg too confining. He wished to familiarize himself with the entire field of hygiene and microbiology, so in 1911 he accepted an assistantship at the Hygiene Institute of the University of Zurich, just after he had married. His wife, also a physician, became an assistant at the Zurich Children’s Clinic under Emil Feer.
In 1914 Hirszfeld was made an academic lecturer on the basis of his work on anaphylaxis and anaphylatoxin and their relationships to coagulation; he was also named Privatdozent. When World War I broke out Serbia was devastated by epidemics of typhus and bacillary dysentery. In 1915 Hirszfeld applied for duty there. He remained with the Serbian army until the end of the war, serving as serological and bacterilogical adviser. At this time, in the hospital for contagious diseases in Thessaloniki he discovered the bacillus Salmonella paratyphi C, today called Salmonella hirszfeldi.
After the end of the war Hirszfeld and his wife returned to Warsaw, where he established a Polish serum institute modeled after the Ehrlich Institute for Experimental Therapy in Frankfurt. He soon became deputy director and scientific head of the State Hygiene Institute in Warsaw and, in 1924, professor there. In 1931 he was named full professor at the University of Warsaw and served on many international boards. After the occupation of Poland by the German army Hirszfeld was dismissed as a “non-Aryan” from the Hygiene Institute but, through the protection of friends, managed to do further scientific work at home until Febraury 1941; it was, however, almost impossible for him to publish.
On 20 February 1941 Hirszfeld was forced to move into the Warsaw ghetto with his wife and daughter. There he organized anti-epidemic measures and vacination campaigns against typhus and typhoid, as well as conducting secret medical courses. In 1943 he and his family fled the ghetto adn were able to survive underground through using false names and continually changing their hiding place; his daughter died of tuberculosis in the same year.
When a part of Poland was liberated in 1944, Hirszfeld immediately collaborated in the establishment of the University of Lublin and became prorector of the university. In 1945 he became director of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at Wroclaw and dean of the medical faculty. He taught at the institute, now affiliated with the Polish Academy of Sciences and named for him, until his death.
Hirszfeld received many honors, including honorary doctorates from the universities of Prague (1950) and Zurich (1951). He wrote almost 400 works in German, French, English, and Polish, many in collaboration with other well-known scholars and not a few with his wife.
Hirszfeld and von Dungern were responsible for naming the blood groups A, B, AB , and O ; previously they were known as groups I, II, III, and IV. He proposed the α and β designations for isoagglutinin. In 1910–1911 Hirszfeld discovered the heritability of blood groups and with this discovery established serological paternity exclusion. During World War I he and his wife wrote works on sero-anthropology, which brought forth fundamental findings on the racial composition of recent and historical peoples. According to his so-called Pleiades theory of blood groups, the other groups probably developed from the archaic O group in the course of evolution.
Hirszfeld was the first to foresee the serological conflict between mother and child, which was confirmed by the discovery of the Rh factor. Upon this basis he developed, in the last years of his life, an “allergic” theory of miscarriage and recommended antihistamine therapy. Hirszfeld also investigated tumors and the serology of tuberculosis. His discovery of the infectious agent of paratyphoid C had farreaching consequences for differential diagnosis.
In 1914, together with R. Klinger, Hirszfeld developed a serodiagnostic reaction test for syphilis, which did not, however, replace the Wasserman test introduced in 1906. His studies of goiter in Swiss endemic regions brought him into sharp disagreement with E. Bircher over the theory—today widely confirmed—that endemic goiters are caused by iodine deficiency in water and food, in opposition to the hydrotelluric theory.
I. Original Works. A complete bibliography of 394 items is in Jakob Wolf Gilsohn, “Prof. Dr. Ludwig Hirszfeld” (Munich, 1965), M. D. thesis; another may be found in Prace Wrocławskiego towarzystwa nauko-wego, ser. B. (1956), no. 6. His most important works are “Uber eine Methode, das Blut verschiedener Menschen serologisch zu unterscheiden,” in Münchener medizinische Wochenschrift, 57 (1910), 531–546, Immunitatsforschung and experimentelle Therapie,4 (1910), 531–546, written with E. von Dungern; “Über unsere Modifikation der Wassermannschen Reaktion,” in Münchener medizinische Wochenschrift, 57 (1910), 1124–1126, written with E. von Dungern; “Über Vererbung gruppenspezifischer Strukturen des Blutes,” in Zeitschrift für Immunitätsforschung und experimentelle Therapie, 6 (1910), 284–292, written with E. von Dungern; “Über gruppenspezifische Strukturen des Blutes,” ibid., 8 (1911), 526–562, written with E. von Dungern; “Epidemiologische Untersuchungen über den endemischen Kropf,” in Archiv für Hygiene und Bakteriologie, 81 (1913), 128–178, written with T. Dieterle and R. Klinger; “Studien über den endemischen Kropf,” in Münchener medizinische Wochenschrift, 60 (1913), 1813–1814, 1814–1816, written with T. Dieterle and R. Klinger; “Über Anaphylaxie und Anaphylatoxin und ihre Beziehungen zu den Gerinnung-vorgängen,” in Vierteljahrschrift der Naturforschenden Gesellschaft in Zürich, 59 (1914), 15–34; “Über eine Gerinnungsreaktion bei Lues,” in Deutsche medizinische Wochenschrift, 40 (1914), 1607–1610, written with P. Klinger; “Une nouvelle réaction,” in Semaine medicale, 34 (1914), 360–363, written with R. Klinger; “Aus meinen Erlebnissen als Hygieniker in Serbien,” in Korrespondenzblatt für Schweizer Arzte, 46 (1916), 513–531; “Essai d’application des méthodes sérologiques au probléme des races,” in Anthropologie, 29 (1919), 505–537, written with H. Hirszfeld; “A New Germ of Paratyphoid,” in Lancet (1919), 1 , 296–297; “Serological Differences Between the Blood of Different Races,” ibid., 2 , 675–679; Konstitutions-serologie und Blutgruppenforschung (Berlin, 1928); “Untersuchungen über die serologischen Eigenchaften der Gewebe,” in Zeitschrift für Immunitätsforschung und experimentelle Therapie, 64 (1929), 61–80, 81–113, written with W. Halber and J. Laskowski; Les groupes sanguines, Leurs applications á la biologie, á la medecine et au droit, translated by H. Hirtzfeld (Paris, 1938); “Über das Wesen der Blutgruppe O,” in Klinische Wochenschrift, 17 (1938), 1047–1051, written with Z. Kostuch; “Sur les pleiades ’isozériques’ du sang,” in Annales de L’Institut Pasteur, 65 (1940), 251–278, 386–414, written with R. Amzel; Historia jednego zycia (“Story of a Life”; Warsaw, 1945); and Probleme der Blutgruppenforschung (Jena, 1960), with an introduction by O. Prokop.
II. Secondary Literature. The only biography in German that covers both life and work is that by Gilsohn cited above. Obituary notices include Lancet (1954), 1 987; G. Blumenthal, in Zentralblatt für Bakteriologie, Parasitenkunde, Infektionskrankheiten und Hygiene, 162 (1955), 1; A. Kelus, in Schweizerische medizinische Wochenschrift, 84 (1954), 745; H. Schlossberger, in Zeitschrift für Immunitätsforschung und experimentelle Therapie111 (1954), 269–270; and P. Speiser, in Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift, 66 (1954), 394–395. A short biography is F. Milgrom, “Ludwik Hirszfeld, Scientist, Teacher, Humanist,” in Polish Medical History and Science Bulletin, 3 (1960), 51–52, Polish and English summary.
Ludwig Hirszfeld (also known as Ludwik Hirshfeld) is considered among one the most influential serologists and immunologists of the twentieth century. Along with the German physician Emil Freiherr von Dungern (born 1867), Hirszfeld discovered the inheritance of ABO blood types; these two scientists were responsible for naming the blood groups as such. Prior to Hirszfeld and von Dungern's work, the groups had been known as I, II, III and IV. Hirszfeld proposed the a and b designations for isoagglutinen (an antibody produced by one individual that causes agglutination of red blood cells in others of the same species. Agglutination is the clumping together of red blood cells, usually in response to a particular antibody.) In forensics, blood grouping and typing are critical for ascertaining whether bloodstains on weapons, tools, clothing, or elsewhere at a crime scene could have come from a particular victim or suspect; for matching fragmented human remains; and for assistance in resolving questioned paternity.
Another forensics contribution of Hirszfeld's was his establishment of serological paternity exclusion. This testing was the precursor to the modern-day use of DNA matching to establish criminal paternity—that is, establishing paternity in cases of unlawful sexual contact (particularly in the case of unlawful sexual contact with a minor). Serological blood testing can determine that an individual is not a biological parent of the offspring in question, hence the term paternity exclusion.
With R. Klinger, Ludwig Hirszfeld developed a serodiagnostic reaction test for syphilis, although this did not replace the Wasserman test for syphilis developed in 1906.
Ludwig Hirszfeld was born in Lodz, Poland, and studied medicine in Germany. After graduation from medical school he became a junior research assistant at the Heidelberg Institute for Experimental Cancer Research. There, his department chair was von Dungern, with whom he collaborated on studies of blood group heritability. In 1911, he accepted an assistantship at the Hygiene Institute of the University of Zurich; he was made an academic lecturer in 1914. The beginning of World War I led to epidemic outbreaks of typhus and bacillary dysentery in Serbia. Hirszfeld joined the Serbian Army as a serological and bacteriological advisor. While with the Serbian Army, Hirszfeld discovered the bacillus Salmonella paratyphi C, which has since been renamed Salmonella hirszfeldi. After the war ended, he and his wife (also a physician) returned to Warsaw, Poland, where he created a Polish serum institute; shortly thereafter, he was elected deputy director and scientific head of the State Hygiene Institute in Warsaw and became a professor there in 1924. In 1931, he was made a full professor at the University of Warsaw, and was asked to serve on numerous international boards.
After the occupation of Poland by the German Army, Hirszfeld was dismissed from his positions. He continued to do scientific work from his home until 1941, when he and his family were forced to move to the Warsaw ghetto. There, he was instrumental in organizing vaccination (against typhus and typhoid) and anti-epidemic campaigns. In 1943, he and his family fled the ghetto and remained underground until part of Poland was liberated in 1944. In 1944, Hirszfeld collaborated in the creation of the University of Lublin. In 1945, he became director of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at Wroclaw and dean of the medical faculty. He continued to teach at the institute, now affiliated with the Polish Academy of Sciences and named for him, until his death in 1954. Among the many honors bestowed on Ludwig Hirszfeld were honorary doctorates from the Universities of Prague (1950) and Zurich (1951); during his career, he wrote and published nearly 400 scholarly works in Polish, German, French, and English.
see also Blood; Blood, presumptive test; Paternity evidence; Serology.