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Barry Marshall
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Doctor
    (September 30, 1951- )
    Born in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, Australia
    With Robin Warren, showed that most peptic ulcers are caused by a bacterium, Heliobacter pylori (H. pylori)
    As part of his research, drank a petri dish containing H. pylori and developed gastritis (1984)
    With Warren, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2005)
    He noted about growing up, ‘In our dad’s shed, our brothers and I had access to all the tools needed to build or dismantle anything. I frequently got into trouble doing both.’
    In choosing a college major, he went with medicine over engineering because it required less calculus.
    He decided not to discuss using himself as a test subject with the hospital ethics committee – or with his wife. (‘This was one of those occasions when it would be easier to get forgiveness than permission.’)
    The first newspaper to report his findings was the tabloid ‘The Star,’ which, as you would suspect, played up the ‘doc uses self as guinea pig’ aspect over the actual science.
    He tends to overshadow his collaborators, thanks to the self-experimentation factor making a great hook for a story. (And, yes, I realize that by profiling him and not Robin Warren I’m continuing the trend.)
    One of his hobbies is electronics and in the early 80s he built his own home computer to do word processing.
    He said one of the reasons for his success was that he had not specialized in gastroenterology: ‘My knowledge and ideas were founded in basic science rather than the dogma one was required to learn in specialist medicine.’
    He decided to experiment on himself only after several attempts to infect pigs with H. pylori had failed.
    Thanks to his research, ulcers that used to be repaired surgically can be treated with antibiotics.
    His research also led to the discovery that H. pylori infection can cause stomach cancer.
    He said, ‘I like the excitement of new things. Boredom is the worst thing.’

Credit: C. Fishel


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