Hirszfeld, Ludwig (World of Forensic Science)
Ludwig Hirszfeld (also known as Ludwik Hirshfeld) is considered among one the most influential serologists and immunologists of the twentieth century. Along with the German physician Emil Freiherr von Dungern (born 1867), Hirszfeld discovered the inheritance of ABO blood types; these two scientists were responsible for naming the blood groups as such. Prior to Hirszfeld and von Dungern's work, the groups had been known as I, II, III and IV. Hirszfeld proposed the a and b designations for isoagglutinen (an antibody produced by one individual that causes agglutination of red blood cells in others of the same species. Agglutination is the clumping together of red blood cells, usually in response to a particular antibody.) In forensics, blood grouping and typing are critical for ascertaining whether bloodstains on weapons, tools, clothing, or elsewhere at a crime scene could have come from a particular victim or suspect; for matching fragmented human remains; and for assistance in resolving questioned paternity.
Another forensics contribution of Hirszfeld's was his establishment of serological paternity exclusion. This testing was the precursor to the modern-day use of DNA matching to establish criminal paternityhat is, establishing paternity in cases of unlawful sexual contact (particularly in the case of unlawful sexual contact with a minor). Serological blood testing can determine that an individual is not a biological parent of the offspring in question, hence the term paternity exclusion.
With R. Klinger, Ludwig Hirszfeld developed a serodiagnostic reaction test for syphilis, although this did not replace the Wasserman test for syphilis developed in 1906.
Ludwig Hirszfeld was born in Lodz, Poland, and studied medicine in Germany. After graduation from medical school he became a junior research assistant at the Heidelberg Institute for Experimental Cancer Research. There, his department chair was von Dungern, with whom he collaborated on studies of blood group heritability. In 1911, he accepted an assistantship at the Hygiene Institute of the University of Zurich; he was made an academic lecturer in 1914. The beginning of World War I led to epidemic outbreaks of typhus and bacillary dysentery in Serbia. Hirszfeld joined the Serbian Army as a serological and bacteriological advisor. While with the Serbian Army, Hirszfeld discovered the bacillus Salmonella paratyphi C, which has since been renamed Salmonella hirszfeldi. After the war ended, he and his wife (also a physician) returned to Warsaw, Poland, where he created a Polish serum institute; shortly thereafter, he was elected deputy director and scientific head of the State Hygiene Institute in Warsaw and became a professor there in 1924. In 1931, he was made a full professor at the University of Warsaw, and was asked to serve on numerous international boards.
After the occupation of Poland by the German Army, Hirszfeld was dismissed from his positions. He continued to do scientific work from his home until 1941, when he and his family were forced to move to the Warsaw ghetto. There, he was instrumental in organizing vaccination (against typhus and typhoid) and anti-epidemic campaigns. In 1943, he and his family fled the ghetto and remained underground until part of Poland was liberated in 1944. In 1944, Hirszfeld collaborated in the creation of the University of Lublin. In 1945, he became director of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at Wroclaw and dean of the medical faculty. He continued to teach at the institute, now affiliated with the Polish Academy of Sciences and named for him, until his death in 1954. Among the many honors bestowed on Ludwig Hirszfeld were honorary doctorates from the Universities of Prague (1950) and Zurich (1951); during his career, he wrote and published nearly 400 scholarly works in Polish, German, French, and English.
SEE ALSO Blood; Blood, presumptive test; Paternity evidence; Serology.