Germany is one of the countries that has given more knowledge to humanity. Through its history it has obtained 108 Nobel Prizes, becoming the third country with more awards after the United States and the United Kingdom. However, it has also had a dark stage already well known.
During the years 1934 and 1945, the Nazi party exercised an iron grip on the Germanic nation. And when in 1935 the Norwegian committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to a pacifist named Carl von Ossietzky for denouncing German rearmament, Adolph Hitler prohibited any German citizen from accepting future awards.
It is during those years that three German scientists were nominated and won the highest prize in science. First in 1938 to Richard Kuhn in Chemistry, then in 1939 to Adolf Butenandt, also in Chemistry; and finally that same year to Gerhard Domagk in Physiology or Medicine
The three winners
Richard Kuhn received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1938 for his work on carotenoids and vitamins. Carotene, a substance found in carrots, is a building block of vitamin A, which is necessary for the growth of organisms.
After identifying two different types of carotene, together with other researchers, Kuhn was able to establish the existence of a third type in 1933. He also made important research on related substances, called carotenoids. His development of chromatographic techniques was important in the isolation and production of pure substances. He also made important work with vitamins B2 and B6.
Although Kuhn rejected the award in 1938, he accepted it later in 1944. This was probably because Kuhn collaborated with the Nazi regime and did not want to contradict Hitler. According to the book ” Science in the Third Reich, ” the university professor accused three co-workers for being Jews.
For his part, Adolf Friedrich Johann Butenandt received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1939 with Leopold Ruzicka for his work on sex hormones. In the 1930s, Butenandt contributed to the mapping of several hormones that apply specifically and respectively to men and women and that regulated bodily functions.
After establishing the composition of the female sex hormone, estrogen, Butenandt was able to determine its structure as well as that of a related hormone, estriol. He was also able to produce a male sex hormone in a pure form for the first time and to determine its chemical composition, which was called androsterone.
Finally, Gerhard Domagk received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1939 for the discovery of the antibacterial effects of Prontosil, a drug that already existed since the beginning of the century.
During the 19th century, doctors discovered that many diseases were caused by infections and attacks of microorganisms. This led to the search for chemical preparations to combat bacteria and other microorganisms. It was thought that the challenge was impossible, but in 1932, Gerhard Domagk and his colleagues demonstrated in experiments with mice that sulfonamides could be used to fight the bacteria that cause blood poisoning.
Then in 1935, the same Domagk used the prontosil in Hildehard his own daughter of 6 years who had been infected with an infection in her finger by streptococcus. The injection of the substance prevented the proliferation of bacteria and the girl healed completely. The discovery became the basis of a series of drugs that would constitute the first type of antibiotic.