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Rudolf Weigl
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Scientist
    (September 2, 1883-August 11, 1957)
    Born in Prerov, Czech Republic
    Biologist
    Developed the first effective vaccine against epidemic typhus
    He did a poor job of documenting his research, with many of his notes being illegible.
    Preparation of his vaccine required letting fleas feed on the blood of human volunteers, infecting the fleas with typhus, extracting the midguts of the fleas, and grinding the guts up into a paste.
    He developed typhus (but recovered) during his research.
    His typhus vaccine was dangerous to make and difficult to produce on a large scale, resulting in its eventual replacement by safer and more economical vaccines.
    His vaccine got its first large-scale tryout when it was distributed by Catholic missionaries in China during the 1930s.
    When the Nazis ordered him to set up a plant to produce typhus vaccines during World War II, he used employment at the plant to provide protection for an estimated 2,000 Jews, Polish intellectuals, and members of the Polish underground.
    He arranged to have typhus vaccines smuggled into the Jewish ghettos of Warsaw and Lvov and into several concentration camps.
    He was honored by Israel as Righteous Among the Nations (2003).

Credit: C. Fishel


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