Rudolf Weigl was a renowned scientist who cured the disease “typhus” during World War 2. At that time, he was working on a vaccine for typhus, and most surprisingly, this vaccine worked on thousands of people and saved countless lives.
Who was Rudolf Weigl?
Rudolf Weigl was a very intelligent and renowned physician and inventor. He was a polish biologist famous for making the first effective vaccine against typhus. During his work, he also gave shelter to Jews at risk of execution during the holocaust.
Unfortunately, he was not awarded any kind of Nobel Prize during his life; we will discuss this later in the post. But to honor his achievement, Google also dedicated a doodle to Doctor Rudolph Weigl.
What is typhus?
Typhus is a disease that normally spreads through body lice, and unfortunately, it is responsible for the death of a person. If we talk about history, this disease has been responsible for millions of deaths in the past.
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History of Rudolph Weigl
Rudolph Weigl was born in 1883 and graduated in Biological Sciences from Poland Lwow University in 1907. He also earned doctoral degrees in comparative anatomy, Histology, and Zoology.
Rudolf was, at that time, an expert in Histology, studying the microscopic anatomy of biological tissues. During World War 1, there were so many deaths from typhus disease, and at that time, Weigl was very determined to stop it.
Before going into the details, remember that typhus is caused by the bacteria spread through the lice. At that time, Weigl took the infected lice in his lab. He then harvested their stomach and mashed them into a vaccine.
Before, he was just experimenting on these types of things, but later, in 1933, he did large-scale vaccine testing. After that, Weigl refined his technique for many years and started large-scale vaccine testing this year.
Unfortunately, while doing lots of experimentation, he also got the disease but recovered afterward. This thing shows that he made an effective vaccine against typhus disease.
While working in Poland during World War 2, his work was also noticed by the Nazis. Nazis ordered Weigl to make the typhus vaccine production plant at that time.
So he hired his colleagues and friends to manufacture vaccine production plants. This thing also prevented them from being deported to Nazis death camps. Surprisingly, this vaccine worked remarkably best at that time, saving about 5000 Jews from Nazis.
Along with this typhus vaccine, he also smuggled the vaccine into the Gestapo prisons, Jewish ghettos, and concentration camps. He was a great scientist, which is why he was nominated twice for the Nobel Prize for his invention of the typhoid vaccine. But unfortunately, there was war and politics at both times, so he was blocked from getting the Nobel Prize.
Death of Rudolf Weigl
Rudolph Weigl died at the age of 73 in 1957. You will be surprised to know that a half-century later, he was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2003 for the discovery of the typhus vaccine.
Film on Rudolf Weigl
When the fourth wave of coronavirus spread across Europe, a film tells the fantastic story of the Polish scientist who made a vaccine against the typhus epidemic. Most surprisingly, he saved the lives of countless people, including Jews, during the holocaust.
The Real Life story of Dr. Rudolf Weigl
The film’s name is “To Conquer Typhus,” and it is currently in production. It is based on the real story of Dr. Rudolf Weigl, who was a biologist. During his research, he discovered the vaccine for the cure of typhus. This movie is filmed in Jaslo in Southeastern Poland. According to Bogdan Miszczak, the film producer said that Dr. Rudolph was a very intelligent scientist, so we could not have thought of a better hero.
The movie starts with five family members who talk about Dr. Rudolph during the Quarantine during the fourth wave of coronavirus. Actually, these five family members were locked in their homes during the Quarantine period.
When the film proceeds, one of the family members recalls the stories of his mother, who survived the war by Dr. Weigl. His mother survived due to the vaccine when she had typhus disease.
You will be surprised to know that up to 3 million people died during the first world war due to typhus. On the other side, millions of deaths were also committed during the Russian civil war from 1917 to 1922.
The mother of Dr. Rudolf was Austrian, whereas his father was polishing, but after his birth, he considered himself a Polish man. The reason is that he grew up near Lwow University, where the Polish language and culture prevailed.
When did Dr. Rudolf Weigl join the Army?
Weigl joined the Australian Army during World War 1 and continued researching parasites. His main focus was discovering the vaccine for typhus, as this disease caused thousands of soldiers to die. These soldiers actually lived together and fought in the trenches.
How was the disease spread?
During his research, he concluded that fleas or lice spread this disease. At that time, he made a method for producing the vaccine. He also discovered the causes of the disease and concluded that the disease was spread by people who lived in crowded places.
Mostly, the people who are undernourished, underclothed, and filthy might get typhus. The people who did not live in crowded places had less chance of developing the disease.
So in 1930, he developed the method for producing a vaccine for a particular disease. During the world war, Hitler feared that this type of disease could also harm the German troops compared to bombs and bullets.
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The outbreak of Typhus in World War 2
During World War 2, Doctor Rudolph continued his research regarding typhus, but at that time, he was forced to work for the Germans. So at that time, Hitler forced Dr. Rudolph to give the vaccine to his force.
However, as I also discussed earlier, during World War 1, Dr. Rudolph joined the Austrian Army and was delegated to research parasites.
Who was saved through the Rudolph Weigl vaccine?
It was a very good approach that Dr. Rudolph saved almost 5000 Secondary School and University students and Polish resistance fighters. Moreover, his vaccine was also sent to German soldiers on the eastern front and given to different civilians and partisans.
Also, it was very good that the Rudolf vaccine was successful because it was also helpful in preventing many scientists from executing. There were some staff members at the institute who were not able to remain shielded indefinitely.
A Polish Jew named Ludwik Fleck was sent to Auschwitz and then Buchenwald. As a result, he was assigned to run a vaccination laboratory.
As he had a lot of pressure from everywhere to supply the vaccine, he treated the Nazis after making a fake vaccine for German troops. He introduced a smaller amount of vaccine and distributed it to the prisoners who won at the risk of infection.
When doctor Rudolf was able to produce the vaccine in great amounts, he easily hid the surplus amount vaccine. You will be shocked that he also distributed the vaccine underground to different polish civilians, Warsaw ghettos, and Lwów.
What is typhus fever?
Typhus fevers are of different types caused by bacteria. This disease is transmitted to humans by fleas, lice, and chiggers.
What are the types of typhus fever?
There are three types of typhus fever.
Epidemic Typhus ( Lice spread the epidemic typhus)
Millions of people died from epidemic typhus during World War 2. Currently, epidemic typhus is a rare disease.
Murine Typhus ( Fleas spread the murine typhus )
It is a bacterial disease found in tropical climates worldwide; however, some cases are also found in the US.
Scrub Typhus (Chiggers spread the scrub typhus )
The cases of Scrub typhus can be found in Southeast Asia.
Symptoms of typhus
The most common symptoms of typhus fever are:
- Rashes on the body
- High Fever
- Muscle aches
- Flat red rash on the chest, back, and stomach
Rudolf Weigl Details
|Born:||2 September 1883|
|Place of birth:||Prerau, Austria-Hungary|
|Died:||11 August 1957|
|Age at the time of death:||73|
|Place of death:||Zakopane, Poland|
|Resting place:||Rakowicki Cemetery, Kraków, Poland|
|His achievement:||Made vaccine against epidemic typhus|
|Institutions:||University of Lwów University of Poznań Jagiellonian University of Kraków|
|Awards:||Righteous Among the Nations (2003)|
Who cured typhus?
Unfortunately, typhus killed almost 4 million people in Poland, but at the time, the efforts of Rudolph Weigl and Hélène Sparrow worked. In 1921, he succeeded in making the vaccine against the epidemic typhus.
Does typhus still exist?
Fortunately, it has not been the case before, but typhus is still a rare disease. This is the main reason we can find different cases of typhus in the areas where there is overcrowding of people. So in that community, body lice travel from person to person and spread typhus disease.
Can we survive typhus?
Although with the invention of a vaccine against typhus, we can survive the disease if epidemic typhus remains untreated, the mortality rate range from 10 to 60%. If we talk about scrub typhus, the mortality rate ranges from 30% if untreated. Last but not least, murine typhus is rarely deadly, even without treatment.
Why didn’t Rudolf Weigl win a Nobel Prize?
Although Rudolph was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1932 to 1934 and 1936 to 1939, unfortunately, he did not win a Nobel Prize in all these years. The reason is that a group of professors blocked him from getting a Nobel prize. He also supplied vaccines to German Troops as he was forced to do this. At the time, he was accused of collaborating with the Germans as he provided vaccines to them. However, still, people remember him for his great work in saving millions of people through this vaccine. This is because a half-century after his death, Dr. Rudolph got a Nobel prize in 2003 for his great research and work.
Are typhus and typhoid the same thing?
Although both these diseases are infectious, they are different diseases caused by different types of bacteria. Typhus is caused by the bacteria present in fleas, whereas typhoid fever is spread through the food that comes in contact with the fecal bacteria.
Who cured typhus?
Dr. Rudolph Weigl and Hélène Sparrow worked together to cure typhus.
How was the typhus vaccine created?
Nazis gave employment to Dr. Rudolph so he could produce a typhus vaccine. He continued his experimentation and made a technique that involved raising millions of infected lice in a laboratory. He then harvested their guts to get the materials for a vaccine.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can we get typhus twice?
After getting typhus disease, you must be hospitalized as soon as possible. However, if you wait too long to go to the doctor, the conditions might get worse. But if you treat it well, you will not get that typhus again.
Where did typhus originally come from?
In the 18th century, there was the identification of the first outbreak of epidemic typhus. People of France got that typhus disease then, and they thought that they got it from Spanish soldiers returning from America.
How was typhus stopped?
According to experts and scientists, at that time, social distancing, taking care of hygiene, and intake of soups, played a very important role in stopping the epidemic of typhus.
Rudolf Weigl was a great biologist and scientist whose biggest achievement in his life was the invention of a vaccine against the epidemic typhus. Not only the civilians of Poland, but he also served many German troops to prevent that epidemic disease.
Unfortunately, he was not awarded Nobel Prize for his services at that time because of secretly provided vaccines to the German Army. But still, we remember him for his great services.
A half-century after his death in 2003, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for the invention of a vaccine against the epidemic typhus.