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Google doodle celebrates 138th BirthdayRudolf who saved 5000 lives

Today’s Doodle celebrates the 138th birthday of Polish inventor, doctor, and immunologist Rudolf Weigl. He produced the first effective vaccine against epidemic typhus—one of humanity’s oldest and most infectious diseases.

On this day in 1883, Rudolf Stefan Weigl was born in the Austro-Hungarian town of Przerów (modern-day Czech Republic). He went on to study biological sciences at Poland’s Lwów University and was appointed as a parasitologist in the Polish Army in 1914. As millions across Eastern Europe were plagued by typhus, Weigl became determined to stop its spread.

Body lice were known to carry the typhus-infecting bacteria Rickettsia prowazekii, so Weigl adapted the tiny insect into a laboratory specimen. His innovative research revealed how to use lice to propagate the deadly bacteria which he studied for decades with the hope of developing a vaccine. In 1936, Weigl’s vaccine successfully inoculated its first beneficiary. When Germany occupied Poland during the outbreak of the Second World War, Weigl was forced to open a vaccine production plant. He used the facility to hire friends and colleagues at risk of persecution under the new regime.

An estimated 5,000 people were saved due to Weigl’s work during this period–both due to his direct efforts to protect his neighbors and to the thousands of vaccine doses distributed nationwide. Today, Weigl is widely lauded as a remarkable scientist and hero. His work has been honored by not one but two Nobel Prize nominations!

From studying a tiny louse to saving thousands of human lives, the impacts your tireless work had on the world are felt to this day—Happy Birthday, Rudolf Weigl!

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