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Landsteiner's classification

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A classification of human blood into groups O, A, B, and AB based on the presence of antigens on the erythrocytes. This system of blood typing made blood transfusion routine medical practice.

In a footnote to an article in 1900, Landsteiner first expressed that the interagglutination of human blood samples was a physiological characteristic. His article the following year is a milestone in medical science. In 1902, Alfred von Decastello and Adriano Sturli discovered a fourth (the rarest) group. In 1924 the mathematician Felix Bernstein (1878-1956) finally established the inheritance of blood type.

The phenomena of agglutination had been known long before Landsteiner's monumental observations in 1900. Of particular interest are the works of Leonard Landois (1837-102), professor of physiology at Greifswald, and the French bacteriologist and immunologist Jules Jean Baptiste Vincent Bordet (1870-1961).


  • L. Landois:
    Die Transfusion des Blutes. Leipzig, 1875.
    In this book, Landois demonstrated the incompatibility of human blood.
  • J. Bordet:
    Sur l’agglutination et la dissolution des globules rouges par le sérum d’animaux injectés de sang défibrine.
    Annales de l’Institut Pasteur, Paris, 1898, 12: 688-695.
    Annales de l’Institut Pasteur, Paris, 1899, 13: 225-250.
    English translation in J. Bordet et al: Studies in Immunity. New York, 1909, p 134.
  • K. Landsteiner:
    Zur Kenntnis der antifermentativen, lytischen und agglutinierenden Wirkungen des Blutserums und der Lymphe.
    Centralblatt für Bakteriologie, Parasitenkunde und Infektionskrankheiten. Originale, 1900, 27: 357-362.
    This paper contains the perhaps most famous footnote in the history of medicine:
      "Das Serum gesunder Menschen wirkt nicht nur auf tierische Blutkörperchen agglutinierend, sonders öfters auch auf menschliche, von anderen Individuen stammende. Es bleibt zu entscheiden, ob diese Erscheinung durch ursprüngliche individuelle Verschiedenheiten oder durch die erfolgte Einwirkung von Schädigungenetwa bakterieller Natur ist." "The serum of healthy people is not only acting agglutinating on animal blood corpuscles, but often also on blood from other individuals. It remains to decide whether this is caused by natural, individual differences or as a consequence of damage of some bacterial nature.

  • Karl Landsteiner:
    Über Agglutinationserscheinungen normalen menschlichen Blutes.
    Wiener klinische Wochenschrift, 1901, 14: 1132-1134.
  • Alfred von Decastello and Adriano Sturli:
    Ueber die Isoagglutinine im Serum gesunder und kranker Menschen.
    Münchener medizinische Wochenschrift, 1902, 49: 1090-1095.
  • Felix Bernstein:
    Ergebnisse einer biostatischen zusammenfassenden Betrachtung über die erblichen Blutstrukturen des Menschen.
    Klinische Wochenschrift, Berlin, 1924, 3: 1495-1497.
We thank Rudolf Kleinert, Bad Reichenhall, Germany, for information submitted.

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