Rudolf Stefan Jan Weigl was a Polish biologist, physician, and inventor, most known for creating the first effective vaccine for epidemic typhus. (He’s also today’s Google Doodle, in case you hadn’t noticed.)
Before becoming a renowned scientist nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine every year between 1930 and 1939, Weigl was born in Austria-Hungary (now the Czech Republic) in 1883. He studied biology at Lviv University. In 1918, he developed the first vaccine version against the typhus epidemic. During the Holocaust, Weigl worked to save the lives of countless Jewish people, not only by developing the vaccine for typhus but also by providing shelter to those suffering under Nazi occupation in Poland.
Now considered rare, epidemic typhus (also known as louse-borne typhus) is a disease caused by the bacteria Rickettsia prowazekii. Spread to people through contact with infected body lice, epidemic typhus was once responsible for millions of deaths. The symptoms began within two weeks of contact and included fever and chills, headache, rapid breathing, body and muscle aches, rash, cough, nausea, vomiting and confusion. (Source: CDC)
After World War II, Weigl lived in the mountains of Poland, where he died in August 1957 at the age of 74. While he never won the Nobel Prize, he was named a Righteous Among the Nations in 2003 for his contributions. ■
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