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Soma Weiss

Born 1898
Died 1942

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Hungarian-American physician, born 1898, Bestereze, Hungary; died 1942.

Biography of Soma Weiss

Soma Weiss was born in Bestereze in Transylvania, then in Hungary. He studied physiology and biochemistry in Budapest. Immediately after the end of World War I he emigrated to the USA and qualified in medicine in 1923. He was subsequently employed at the pharmacological institute, Cornell University, from which he published articles on the emeritic effect of digitalis.

Weiss later moved to Harvard Medical School, and in 1939 became physician-in-chief and professor at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. In 1925 Soma Weiss and Hermann Blumgart performed the first application of radioactive tracers in medical research in a study of the velocity of circulating blood in 1925.

Weiss was considered a great man, primarily because of his enormous effect on other people. Weiss was sincerely interested in each of his trainees, a great catalyst for young people. He seemed to make the day “lighter” for all those around him. Weiss got the very best out of everyone he touched. He did not make particularly brilliant diagnoses, although he was a sound physician. He had a unique ability to focus on the problem. He was also willing to give considerable responsibility to very young people. It was his personal qualities, however, that dominated. He thus produced an atmosphere where there was relatively little difference between work and play.

Weiss was fluent in German and read not only English medical literature but German literature as well. This German fluency allowed Weiss to be a notch ahead of those who read only English medical literature. He died from a ruptured intracranial aneurysm in 1942, only 43 years of age.

Soma Weiss' chief interest was internal medicine, on which he published more than 200 articles. The majority of them concerned cardio-vascular diseases and problems in pharmacology and therapy. He has delivered important contributions to our knowledge of deficiency of the left chamber of the heart, syncope, hypertension, and chronic pyelonephrites. He was the first to describe the carotid sinus syndrome and introduced the first practical method for measuring the circulation time. He was a legendary clinical figure in his brief lifetime, with an impressive ability to connect bedside observations with qualitative research.

"A diagnosis is easy, as long as you think of it".

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