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Hideyo Noguchi

Hideyo Noguchi with signature
Born November 24, 1876(1876-11-24)
Inawashiro, Fukushima prefecture
Died May 21, 1928 (aged 51)
Accra, Ghana
Nationality Japan
Fields bacteriology
Known for syphilis
Treponema pallidum
In this Japanese name, the family name is Noguchi.

Hideyo Noguchi (野口 英世 Noguchi Hideyo?, November 24, 1876 – May 21, 1928), also known as Seisaku Noguchi (野口清作 Noguchi Seisaku?), was a prominent American-based Japanese bacteriologist who discovered the agent of syphilis in 1911.

Contents

Early life

Noguchi Hideyo was born in Inawashiro, Fukushima prefecture in 1876. When he was one and a half years old he fell down into a fireplace and suffered a burn injury on his left hand. There was no doctor in the small village, but one of the men examined the boy. "The fingers of the left hand are mostly gone," he said, "and the left arm and the left foot and the right hand are burned; I know not how badly."

In 1883 he entered Mitsuwa elementary school. Thanks to generous contributions from his teacher Kobayashi and his friends, he was able to receive surgery on his badly burned left hand. He recovered about 70% mobility and functionality in his left hand through the operation.

Noguchi decided to become a doctor to help those in need. He apprenticed himself to Dr. Kanae Watanabe (渡部鼎 Watanabe Kanae?), the same doctor who had performed the surgery on his hand. He passed the examinations to practice medicine when he was twenty years old in 1897. He showed signs of great talent and was supported in his studies by Dr. Morinosuke Chiwaki. In 1898, he changed his first name to Hideyo after reading a novel about a doctor who had the same name - Seisaku - as him. The doctor in the novel was intelligent like Noguchi, but became lazy and ruined his life.

Hideyo Noguchi and his mother Shika

Career

In 1900 Noguchi moved to the United States, where he obtained a job as a research assistant with Dr. Simon Flexner at the University of Pennsylvania and later at the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research. He thrived in this environment.[1] At this time his work concerned poisonous snakes. In part, his move was motivated by difficulties in obtaining a medical position in Japan, as prospective employers were concerned about the impact the hand deformity would have on potential patients. In a research setting, this handicap became a non-issue. He and his peers learned from their work and from each other. In this period, a fellow research assistant in Flexner's lab was Frenchman Alexis Carrel, who would go on to win a Nobel Prize in 1912;[2] and Noguchi's work would later attract the Prize committee's scrutiny.[3] The Nobel Foundation archives have been only recently opened for public inspection; and what was once only speculation is now confirmed. He was nominated in 1913, 1914, 1915, 1920, 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, and 1927.

While working at the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research in 1913, he demonstrated the presence of Treponema pallidum (syphilitic spirochete) in the brain of a progressive paralysis patient, proving that the spirochete was the cause of the disease. Dr. Noguchi's name is remembered in the binomial attached to another spirochete, Leptospira noguchii.[4]

In 1918, Noguchi traveled extensively in Central America and South America to do research for a vaccine for yellow fever, and to research Oroya fever, poliomyelitis and trachoma. While in Ecuador, he received a commission as a colonel in the Ecuadoran Army.

Death

In 1928, Noguchi traveled to Africa to confirm his findings. The purpose of this field work was to test the hypothesis that yellow fever was caused by spirochaete bacteria instead of a virus. While working in Accra, Gold Coast (modern-day Ghana) he died from yellow fever on May 21, 1928.[5] His last words being "I don't understand."[6]

Statue of Hideyo Noguchi in Ueno Park

Selected works

Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution. [OCLC 2377892]
Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution. [OCLC 14796920]
Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott. [OCLC 3201239]
New York: P. B. Hoeber. [OCLC 14783533]

Honors during Noguchi's lifetime

Noguchi was honored with both Japanese and foreign decorations. He received honorary degrees from a number of universities.

He was self-effacing in his public life, and he often referred to himself with naive objectiveness, as "funny Noguchi;" but those who knew him well reported that he "gloated in honors."[7] When Noguchi was awarded an honorary doctorate at Yale, William Lyon Phelps observed that the Kings of Spain, Denmark and Sweden had conferred awards, but "perhaps he appreciates even more than royal honors the admiration and the gratitude of the people."[8]

Posthumous honors

In 1928, the Japanese government awarded Noguchi the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, which represents the second highest of eight classes associated with the award.[16]

The grave of Hideyo Noguchi in Woodlawn Cemetery

In 1979, the Noguchi Memorial Institute of Medical Research (NMIMR) was founded with funds donated by the Japanese government.[17] The Institute is located at the University of Ghana in Legon, a suburb north of Accra.[18] After his death, Noguchi's body was returned to the United States, but the mere existence of the NMIMR is arguably a more fitting memorial than the modest marker in New York City's Woodlawn Cemetery.[19]

Dr. Noguchi's portrait has been printed on Japanese 1000 yen banknotes since 2004.[20] In addition, the house where he was born and brought up is preserved and is part of a museum to his life and its achievements near Inawashiro.

Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize

The footstone of Hideyo Noguchi in Woodlawn Cemetery

The Japanese Government established the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize in July 2006 as a new international medical research and services award to mark the official visit to by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Africa in May 2006 and the 80th anniversary of Dr. Noguchi’s death.[21] The Prize aims to honor individuals with outstanding achievements in combating various infectious diseases in Africa or in establishing innovative medical service systems.[22] The presentation ceremony and laureate lectures coincided with the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD)in late April 2008.[23] This year's conference venue was moved from Tokyo to Yokohama as another way of honoring the man after whom the prize was named. In 1899, Dr. Noguchi worked at the Yokohama Port Quarantine Office as an assistant quarantine doctor.[24]

The first awards of this international prize—consisting of a citation, a medal and an honorarium of 100 million yen (US$843,668) are only intended to be the first in a continuing series; and subsequently the Prize is expected to be awarded every five years.[25] The prize as been made possible through a combination of government funding and private donations.[26]

Human experimentation

In 1911 and 1912 at the Rockefeller Institute in New York City, Noguchi was working to develop a syphilis skin test similar to the tuberculin skin test. The subjects were recruited from clinics and hospitals in New York. In the experiment, Noguchi injected an extract of syphilis under the subjects' upper arm skin. Skin reactions varied among healthy subjects and syphilis patients by the disease's stage and its treatment. Of the 571 subjects, 315 had syphilis. The remaining subjects were "controls" who did not have syphilis and were orphans or hospital patients. The hospital patients had nonsyphilitic diseases, such as malaria, leprosy, tuberculosis, and pneumonia. Finally, of the controls, were normal individuals, mostly children between the ages of 2 and 18 years.Critics at the time noted that Noguchi violated the rights of orphans and hospital patients.[27][28] He was later sued by the parents of some of the child subjects, who allegedly contracted syphilis as a result of his experiments.[29]

Notes

  1. ^ Flexner, James Thomas. (1996). Maverick's Progress, pp. 51-52.
  2. ^ Gray, Christopher. " Streetscapes/Rockefeller University, 62nd to 68th Streets Along the East River; From a Child's Death Came a Medical Institute's Birth," New York Times. February 25, 2001.
  3. ^ Japanese Government Internet TV: "Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize," streaming video 2007/04/26
  4. ^ Dixon, Bernard. "Fame, Failure, and Yellowjack," Microbe Magazine (American Society for Microbiology). May 2004.
  5. ^ "Dr. Noguchi is Dead, Martyr of Science. Bacteriologist of Rockefeller Institute Dies of Yellow Fever on Gold Coast. Japanese, Ranked With Pasteur and Metchnikoff, Found Carrier of Own Disease.". New York Times. May 22, 1928. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60F15FA3C58127A93C0AB178ED85F4C8285F9. Retrieved 2009-08-26. "Professor Hideyo Noguchi, bacteriologist of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, died here today from yellow fever, which ..." 
  6. ^ BBC/H2g2: Yellow Fever blurb.
  7. ^ "'Funny Noguchi,' Time. May 18, 1931.
  8. ^ a b "Angll Inaugurated at Yale Graduation; New President Takes Office Before a Distinguished Audience of University Men;784 Degrees are given; Mme. Curie, Sir Robert Jones,Archibald Marshall, J.W. Davis and Others Honored," New York Times. June 23, 1921.
  9. ^ Kita, Atsushi. (2005). Dr. Noguchi's Journey: A Life of Medical Search and Discovery, p. 169.
  10. ^ Kita, p. 181.
  11. ^ Kita, p. 177;
  12. ^ a b Kita, p. 182.
  13. ^ Kita, Atsushi. (2005). Dr. Noguchi's Journey: A Life of Medical Search and Discovery, p. 196; n.b., Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, 1915.
  14. ^ Kita, p. 186.
  15. ^ a b Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Noguchi & Latin America
  16. ^ "Mikado Honors Dr. Noguchi, New York Times. June 2, 1928.
  17. ^ UNiversity of Pennsylvania: Global Health Project
  18. ^ University of Ghana: Noguchi Institute (NMIMR).
  19. ^ " A Place for All Eternity In Their Adopted Land," New York Times. September 1, 1997.
  20. ^ Bank of Japan: Valid Bank of Japan Notes, as of August 2004; Brook, James. "Japan Issues New Currency to Foil Forgers," New York Times. November 2, 2004
  21. ^ Japan Science and Technology Agency: " Comemorative Lecture: The First Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize," Science Links Japan web site.
  22. ^ Rockefeller Foundation: Noguchi Prize, history
  23. ^ Japan, Cabinet Office: Noguchi Prize, chronology
  24. ^ Hideyo Noguchi Memorial Museum: Noguchi, life events
  25. ^ World Health Organization: Noguchi Prize, WHO/AFRO involved
  26. ^ "Noguchi Africa Prize short by 70% of fund target," Yomiuri Shimbun (Tokyo). March 30, 2008.
  27. ^ Noguchi H. Experimental research in syphilis with especial reference to Spirochaeta pallida (Treponema pallidum). JAMA. 1912;58(16):1163-1172
  28. ^ Lederer SE. Hideyo Noguchi's Luetin Experiment and the AntivivisectionistsIsis, Vol. 76, No. 1 (Mar., 1985), pp. 31-48
  29. ^ Reviews and Notes: History of Medicine: Subjected to Science: Human Experimentation in America before the Second World War, Annals of Internal Medicine, American College of Physicians, July 15, 1995 vol. 123 no. 2 159

References

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