Karl Landsteiner

Karl Landsteiner

Karl Landsteiner an Austrian-born American immunologist, physician and pathologist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930 for Physiology or Medicine for detecting the major blood groups and creating the ABO system of blood typing that revolutionized the process of blood transfusion and medical practice related to it.


Early Life and Education:

Born in 1868 in Vienna, Austria to a journalist father, Karl Landsteiner was a bright student who was allowed to study medicine when he was merely seventeen years old. He acquired a degree in medicine from the University of Vienna. Landsteiner envisioned that the future of medicine was in research, so he preferred to become a research scientist rather than an ordinary medical practitioner.

Contributions and Achievements:

Karl Landsteiner was the first biologist to identify different blood types and to sort out blood into groups. Before him, scientists thought that the blood of every person was the same. Blood transfusion was often considered dangerous. When it did not work, it was believed that the blood from the donor “clumped together” in the recipient’s body and resulted in his death. Landsteiner demonstrated that there are certain differences in the structure of human blood types.

After working hard for almost one year testing several blood samples, Karl Landsteiner announced in 1901 that there were three major human blood groups: A, B and C (which was later called O). One year later in 1902, Landsteiner’s three fellow scientists discovered a fourth blood type named AB.

The role of Landsteiner’s contributions in medicine is crucial and thousands of lives were saved in hospitals during World War I, and are still being saved to this day. Blood types are used by the police and criminologists to solve crimes by examining blood samples at crime scenes.

Later Life and Death:

Karl Landsteiner was a notoriously private person who disliked publicity and rarely gave interviews and speeches, although much in demand. He became a naturalized United States citizen in 1929.

Landsteiner died of a heart attack in 1943 while still performing his duties at his laboratory at the age of 75. He was honored with a Lasker Award in 1946, three years after his death.