Paul Ehrlich

German physician and scientist

Paul Ehrlich (14 March 1854 – 20 August 1915) was a German doctor of Jewish descent.[1] He won the 1908 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, with Ilya Mechnikov, for finding out how immunity fights disease.[2]

Paul Ehrlich
Paul Ehrlich
Born14 March 1854
Died20 August 1915
Bad Homburg, Germany
Alma materUniversities of Breslau, Strassburg, Leipzig
AwardsNobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1908)
Scientific career
InstitutionsGoettingen University,
Königliches Institut für experimentelle Therapie

Ehrlich directed a research program which discovered the first treatment for syphilis which worked. It was a compound of arsenic which went by the trade name of Salvarsan.[3][4] He studied trypanosomiasis and other protozoal diseases. He produced trypan red, which was (as his Japanese assistant Shiga showed) effective against trypanosomes.[1]

He invented a staining system for bacteria (before Gram staining). He did a complete survey of all the cell staining techniques then known. He showed how to tell the difference between different kinds of white blood cells, and discovered mast cells. He discovered that methylene blue, which stains bacteria and cell nuclei, could put the malarial parasite, Plasmodium, into recession (the fever drops).

He also made a decisive contribution to an antiserum against diphtheria, and developed a method for standardizing therapeutic serums. His co-worker got a sole Nobel Prize for the joint work on diphtheria.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Biography of Paul Ehrlich". The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2009-01-05.
  2. "The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1908". Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 2007-07-28.
  3. Watson, Peter 2009. Ideas: a history, from Wittgenstein to the word wide web. London: Folio Society, p115–117. Original edition was titled A terrible beauty: the people & ideas that shaped the modern world. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2000.
  4. Weatherall M. 1990. In search of a cure: a history of pharmaceutical discovery. Oxford University Press.
  5. Meyers, Morton A. 2007. Happy accidents: serendipity in modern medical breakthroughs. ISBN 978-1-55970-819-7