Google Doodle Celebrates 138th Birthday of Polish Immunologist Rudolf Weigl

Dr. Rudolf Weigl developed the first effective vaccine typhus, and along the way, saved thousands of Jews from execution.

The researcher sabotaged the Nazis and helped smuggle needed medicine to Jews living in ghettos during World War II.

The search engine’s doodle shows the Polish inventor holding a test tube in his gloved hands and drawings of lice on the wall on one side and a human body on the other. The illustrator has spelled out Google with a microscope, beakers on bunsen burners, and test tubes in holders all placed on a lab table.

Rudolf Stefan Weigl was born in the Austro-Hungarian town of Przerow – in the modern-day Czech Republic – on September 2, 1883. He went on to study biological sciences at Poland’s Lwow University and in 1914, he was appointed as a parasitologist in the Polish Army.

As typhus ravaged Eastern Europe during World War I, Weigl was determined to stop it. After the discovery that typhus-infecting bacteria spread through lice, Weigl grew infected lice in his lab and harvested their stomachs to be mashed into a vaccine.

Weigl refined his technique over the years and began large-scale testing of the vaccine in 1933. It was during this time he got the disease himself but recovered.

The first dose of the epidemic typhus vaccine was given to a patient in 1936.

During Germany’s occupation of Poland in World War II, the Nazi regime coerced Rudolf Weigl to massively increase his vaccine production. To do this, Weigl needed to hire around 1000 people, and in an effort to combat the Nazis in his own way, he hired people he knew to be at risk of persecution. Beyond that, the institute’s vaccines were also smuggled into at-risk locations like concentration camps.

He was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1942 and 1948.

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