Washington: On what would be his 148th birthday, Google has honoured Nobel Laureate Karl Landsteiner, the discoverer of blood groups — key to successful blood transfusion — with a Doodle. Landsteiner may not be a household name but his work that made blood transfusion safer has helped millions of people lead longer, healthier lives.
“The first fundamental discovery in the history of serology didn’t come until 1901, when Karl Landsteiner’s identification of blood groups spurred a flurry of additional research and discovery and eventually led to his receiving the 1930 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine,” according to the Vienna-born biologist’s profile at Rockefeller University in the US.
In the 17th century, the “dangerous” practice of blood transfusions — used since at least the Middle Ages — was banned in large parts of Western Europe. In 1900, while working at the University of Vienna, Landsteine made his first observations about agglutination, the clumping of blood cells that can result in the release of lethal toxins in a patient’s blood stream.
With the discovery of blood groups A, B and C (later renamed “O”) later, Landsteiner was able to show that the allergic reaction, agglutination, occur only when blood samples of different types are mixed, not when the same type are mixed.
In 1902, two of Landsteiner’s colleagues, Alfred von Decastello and Adriano Sturli, discovered the fourth blood group, AB, further elucidating the differences in compatibility among blood types, according to the Rockefeller University profile.
Landsteiner was born in Vienna in 1868. With the difficulties faced by researchers in Austria following World War I, Landsteiner moved to The Hague in the Netherlands and later to the US. In 1922, he accepted a post at The Rockefeller Institute.
“Landsteiner is also credited with laying the groundwork, together with fellow scientist Erwin Popper, that led to the discovery of the polio virus. This was the first step towards developing a treatment for the disease which affected millions of children worldwide,” Google said in a statement on Tuesday.
Landsteiner died in 1943 following a heart attack in his laboratory.