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Emil Abderhalden

Born 1877-03-09
Died 1950-08-05

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Swiss physiologist and biochemist, born March 9, 1877, Ober-Uzwil, Canton St. Gallen; died August 5, 1950, Zurich.

Biography of Emil Abderhalden

Emil Abderhalden was the son of the teacher Niklaus Abderhalden. He attended the University of Basel and received his doctorate at that University in 1902. He then came to the laboratory of the Nobel Prize winner Emil Fischer (1852-1919) in Berlin. He was habilitated as Privatdozent for physiology at the University of Berlin in 1904, becoming professor and director of the physiological institute at the veterinary college in Berlin – Berliner Tierärztliche Hochschule – in 1908. In 1911 he moved to the chair of physiology at the medical faculty of the University of Halle. In 1913 he rejected an invitation to Vienna, in 1916 to Zurich, and in 1935 to Bern. In 1909 Abderhalden married Margarete Barth.

During World War I the High Command in Magdeburg, the Generalkommando, entrusted Abderhalden with the transport of the wounded at Halle. In 1915 he established a Children’s hospital and supported the evacuation of undernourished German children to Switzerland. For his efforts he was awarded the Iron Cross, 2. Class, and the Cross of Merit for war services.

After the war Abderhalden worked on the physiological chemistry of metabolism. From 1936 he undertook research on substitutes and foodstuffs. For this he received the Kriegsverdienstkreuz, 2. Class, in 1944. In June 1945 he was deported to the American Zone of occupation, and then came to Switzerland with his family in 1945. In 1946/1947 he held the chair of physiological chemistry at the University of Zurich.

A deeply religious man, Abderhalden founded two journals, one on enzymology, and the other on ethics.

Abderhalden wrote several textbooks, including one on methodology. One of his first publications, in 1904, was a complete review of the effect of alcohol and alcoholism. He was always an ardent advocate of the temperance movement.

Emil Abderhalden was president of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher „Leopoldina“ from 1931 to 1945. He died of a cerebral haemorrhage in 1950.

We thank Patrick Jucker-Kupper, Switzerland, for information submitted.

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