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Medicine: Nobel Prize

2 minute read

The 1935 Nobel Prize for Medicine last week went to a German embryologist, sturdy Professor Hans Spemann, 66, of the University of Freiburg. The German Press published big headlines about this first unstinted salute to a Nazi scientist.

Under the microscope with needle knives Professor Spemann operates on fertilized animal eggs no bigger than pinheads. By such minute work has he determined that a minute point in the ripening egg, the dorsal lip of the blastopore, is where the cells which eventually form the body begin to take special form. He has transplanted a bit of dorsal lip from one egg to the blastopore of a different kind of egg, watched the egg develop as if it were the bastard of some primitive miscegenation. The usefulness of Dr. Spemann’s researches is remote.

Hans Spemann’s father was an important German book publisher. In that business young Spemann spent a year before deciding to study medicine. He never practiced, his career having become fixed at the laboratory stage.

On his way to last week’s Nobel Prize he has raised a family. Three sons live with him and Frau Spemann at Freiburg: one, a biologist; another, an architect; the third, an artist. A daughter is the wife of Professor Ernst Cloos, Johns Hopkins geologist.

Cried Dr. Spemann last week when notified of his Nobel Prize: “This crowns my life’s work.”

He translated the 160,000 Swedish kronor he will receive, found it amounted to 101,520 marks ($40,608), cried again: “What can one do with so much money? I really have not thought of the possibilities. I have all the instruments and facilities that I need for my work.”

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