Emil von Behring

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Emil Behring, around 1896

Emil Adolf Behring , from 1901 von Behring (born March 15, 1854 in Hansdorf , Rosenberg district in the province of West Prussia , † March 31, 1917 in Marburg ) was a German physician , immunologist and serologist . He was the founder of the passive antitoxic vaccination ("blood serum therapy") and in 1901 received the first Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine .

Particularly due to his success in the development of drugs against diphtheria and tetanus obtained from blood serum , he was in the press as the “savior of children” and - since the tetanus healing serum was particularly beneficial for the wounded of the First World War - as the “savior of soldiers “Boasted. In 1915, Behring was awarded the Iron Cross on a white ribbon by Kaiser Wilhelm II .


Emil Adolf von Behring
Diphtheria vaccination card with reference to von Behring

Emil Adolf Behring (from 1901 Emil von Behring) was born as the son of the teacher Georg August Behring (1819–1886) and his second wife Augustine Zech (1828–1892). His father already had four children from his first marriage, and Emil was the first of another nine. A grant from the Prussian state enabled him to graduate from high school. On October 2, 1874, he entered the Kaiser-Wilhelms-Akademie for military medical education in Berlin, where he completed his medical studies at state expense in return for an eight-year military medical service after graduation. In 1878 he was at the Berlin Friedrich-Wilhelms University with a thesis on recent observations about the neurotomy opticociliaris Dr. med. PhD ; He received his license to practice medicine in 1880. He then worked as a military doctor in the province of Posen , the stations were Wohlau (1878–1880), Posen (1880–1883), Winzig (1883–1887) and Bojanowo (1887).

The military on hygiene, care of wounds and prevention of disease -oriented training of military doctors sensitized Behring for Disease Prevention and hygiene. Behring received further important impressions from the pharmacologist Carl Binz in Bonn and during his time as assistant to Robert Koch and later as senior physician at the medical clinic with a focus on infectiology and pulmonology at the Charité von Koch's Prussian Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin. Behring began his work on serum therapy in 1890 with the Japanese Kitasato Shibasaburō , with whom he published the essay "On the emergence of diphtheria immunity and tetanus immunity in animals" . The essay is the basis of serum therapy. At the end of 1891, the diphtheria healing serum ( diphtheria antitoxin ) obtained from the serum of sheep was used for the first time on two children suffering from diphtheria at Ernst von Bergmann's Surgical University Clinic - but unsuccessfully because the dosage of the antitoxin used was too low. The collaboration of his colleagues Paul Ehrlich and Erich Wernicke made a significant contribution to the development of an effective healing serum . The basic idea of ​​the blood serum therapy implemented by Behring and his Berlin colleagues is based on the assumption that it is possible to fight the pathogens of infectious diseases not with disinfecting chemicals, but with antitoxins - i.e. with antidotes that the body itself produces as part of the defense reaction become.

From a scientific point of view, the breakthrough came at the beginning of 1894, when the diphtheria healing serum was used successfully not only in the Berlin clinics, but also in Leipzig and other cities. The remedy also replaced the trachea incision that had been made during the treatment and was described by Otto Heubner as "Behring's Gold" during the International Hygiene Congress in Budapest. However, Behring lacked financially strong non-governmental partners in order to realize his groundbreaking idea of ​​an antitoxin treatment on a large scale. As early as autumn 1892, the board member of Farbwerke Hoechst , the chemist August Laubenheimer , recognized the scope of Behring's ideas and won him over to work with the company. Production began in Frankfurt-Höchst in August 1894 ; In November of the same year a serum production facility with initially 57 horses was inaugurated in Höchst with Behring and Robert Koch in attendance. By the end of the year, over 75,000 serum bottles had already been dispatched, and in the year of operation in 1895 the net profit was 706,770 marks. The Farbwerke offered a diphtheria healing serum according to Behring and Ehrlich , which achieved a cure rate of 75 percent in this previously fatal childhood disease. In October 1894, thanks to the mediation of the ministerial official Friedrich Althoff , Behring was appointed Hygiene Professor at the University of Halle .

In 1895 the Prussian state appointed Behring, who could not record any teaching success in Halle, to the University of Marburg as full professor of hygiene and director of the Institute of Hygiene. In the same year, a private laboratory, which was very well equipped for the time, was set up on the Schlossberg with funds from the dye works and 25,000 gold francs from the “Prix Alberto Levi” awarded to him in France, which also included a small stable for the experimental animals. In 1901 Behring was awarded the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded, having already on 18 January 1901 ennobled was (from then Emil Adolf of Behring). In 1903, Kaiser Wilhelm II awarded him the title of "Excellency" as a Real Privy Councilor .

In the course of 1903, Behring pondered the idea of ​​starting his own company, whereupon further lands and an estate at the castle park were added to the laboratory in 1904, which formed the basis for the Behring factory. One reason for striving for independence in one's own company was the change in the previous contractual relationships with the Farbwerke in Höchst, in which August Laubenheimer, who had previously acted as mediator, left the board in 1903.

Laboratory from 1913 in Wannkopfstrasse in Marburg

Behring traded at its business start-up the following words: "The extensive and very expensive buildings, land, livestock, laboratory facilities, which still directed at specific targets departments come up with numerous servants staff are united to form a combined company, which has received Behring plant the name." But despite Behring needed a business partner for the independence he had now gained, as he did not understand much about the commercial management of a company and the sale of his products. On November 7, 1904, he was assisted by the Marburg pharmacist Carl Siebert as a partner and partner when the new company was entered as “Behringwerke oHG” in the commercial register. The company started with ten employees. Rapid growth in the company resulted in the conversion of the Behringwerk into the Behringwerke Gesellschaft mbH in 1914 .

With the beginning of the First World War, production was expanded enormously, as Behring's tetanus healing serum was now the savior of the deadly tetanus for the soldiers lying in the filthy trenches. In addition to the tetanus healing serum, dysentery and gas burn serum as well as cholera vaccine were produced for the army.


Emil von Behring died before the end of the First World War, on March 31, 1917, at the age of 63 in Marburg, sick since the summer of 1916 and withdrawn from all scientific and entrepreneurial business. The resting place is in the Behring mausoleum on the Elsenhöhe , named after the wife Else von Behring, who offers a view of Behring's former lands and Marburg Castle .


Since 1874 he was a member, later an honorary member, of the Pépinière-Corps Suevo-Borussia, which continues to this day in the Corps Guestphalia et Suevoborussia Marburg .

From November 1907 to the summer of 1910, Behring received medical treatment from the internist Rudolf von Hößlin (1858–1938) in his Neuwittelsbach sanatorium in the Munich district of Nymphenburg, where he "hoped to find relaxation from the stressful work" (according to Zeiss and Bieling 1940/41, p. 497). At least during this time he suffered from severe depression. This is also reported by one of Sigmund Freud's most famous patients , the “Wolf Man”, in his memoir. He had seen Behring during a stay in a sanatorium in 1908 near Nymphenburg Palace in Munich (Behring “suffered from a severe depression that you could read directly from his face”); the clinic was also looked after by the well-known psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin .


Wedding photo of Emil Behring & Else Spinola 1896
Villa Behring on the Italian island of Capri (red building)

In 1895 Emil Behring (at that time still without a title of nobility) bought a villa on the island of Capri near Naples, which he proudly called "Villa Behring". He and his young wife Else Spinola (1876–1936) went there for their honeymoon after they had married on December 29, 1896. She was the daughter of the Privy Councilor and Vice Director of the Charité Werner Bernhard Spinola (1836-1900) and his wife Elise Charlotte Bendix (1846-1926). The couple had six sons, Fritz, Bernhard, Hans, Kurt, Emil and Otto, two of whom, Hans (1903–1982) and Otto von Behring (1913–2002), also studied medicine.

Von Behring chose prominent scientists and personalities such as Émile Roux , Carl Wernicke , Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen , Ilja Iljitsch Metschnikow and Friedrich Althoff as godparents . The second son, Bernhard (1900-1918), fell as an ensign in France during the First World War .

His nephew Walter Bieber (1890–1972) also studied medicine and worked from 1919 to 1923 as a senior physician at the Emil von Behring Institute in Marburg. Later he was head of the epidemic department in the Reich Ministry of the Interior in Berlin.

Hitler declared Else Spinola a Edelarian in 1934, after von Behring had slandered her for contaminating Germanic blood with the animal blood serum. The " striker " had claimed that Behring had "messed up his own blood." On the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of serum therapy in 1940, the National Socialist State also held a large memorial service with scholars from 23 nations.

Several members of the Behring family were teachers, such as grandfather Johann Friedrich († 1853, teacher in Gramten, Rosenberg district), father Georg August (teacher in Raudnitz, Klein-Sehren, Chroste and Hansdorf), the Otto brothers (1845–1898 , Teacher in Daulen), Albert (1864–1913, teacher in Hansdorf) and Paul (1867–1928, teacher in Danzig). Sister Bertha (1859–1927), who herself taught at the Hansdorfer Schule before they married, was married to the teacher Hermann Bieber (1863–1926). Their son Hermann Bieber (1895–1926) was later also a teacher in Hansdorf.


West German postage stamp (1954) for the 100th birthday of Paul Ehrlich and Emil von Behring


  • Emil von Behring Prize from the University of Marburg.
  • von Behring (moon crater)
  • Asteroid (65685) Behring
  • 1915, for the 25th anniversary of the discovery of diphtheria serum, commemorative coin with his picture
  • In 1940, on the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the diphtheria serum, the Deutsche Reichspost issued two commemorative stamps.
  • In 1954, on the 100th birthday, the Deutsche Bundespost issued a commemorative stamp for Paul Ehrlich and Emil von Behring, who were only one day older . Also a special stamp in 2004 for the 150th birthday of the two.
  • HELIOS Emil von Behring Clinic , Berlin-Zehlendorf
  • Emil von Behring barracks, Giebelstadt, Würzburg district, Air Force medical school (barracks out of service since 1996)
  • Emil-von-Behring-Gymnasium , Spardorf, Erlangen-Höchstadt district
  • Emil-von-Behring-Gymnasium, Großhansdorf , Stormarn district
  • Emil von Behring School (health - nutrition - social), Geislingen / Steige
  • Emil von Behring School in Marburg (www.evb-schule.de)
  • Emil-von-Behring-Strasse in Langenhagen
  • at least ten more Emil von Behring streets and eleven more Von Behring streets in German cities

Fonts (selection)

  • Treatise : On the development of diphtheria immunity and tetanus immunity in animals. In: German Medical Weekly . No. 49 of December 4, 1890.
  • The tetanus healing serum and its use on people suffering from tetanus. Georg Thieme Verlag, Leipzig 1892.
  • The practical goals of blood serum therapy and the methods of immunization for the purpose of obtaining healing serum. Georg Thieme Verlag, Leipzig 1892.
  • The history of diphtheria, with special reference to immunity. Georg Thieme Verlag, Leipzig 1893 → New edition: Thieme Verlagsgruppe, Stuttgart 1972, ISBN 3-500-24480-7 .
  • Collected treatises on the etiological therapy of infectious diseases. Georg Thieme Verlag, Leipzig 1893.
  • The new diphtheria drug. O. Häring, Berlin 1894 → New edition: (= Medicine Nobel Prize Winner Writings. Volume 9) Salzwasser-Verlag, Paderborn 2012, ISBN 978-3-86444-918-5 .
  • The fight against infectious diseases. Hygienic part. Georg Thieme Verlag, Leipzig 1894.
  • Fight against infectious diseases. Infection and disinfection, attempt to systematically present the theory of infectious substances and disinfectants. Georg Thieme Verlag, Leipzig 1894.
  • as ed., with Albert Eulenburg : Textbook of general therapy and therapeutic methodology. 1898.
  • Immunity . German publishing company, Stuttgart 1901.
  • Diphtheria. Definition, creation, detection and prevention. August Hirschwald, Berlin 1901.
  • Serum therapy in medicine and the art of healing. 1901.
  • Control of tuberculosis. Lecture given at the meeting of naturalists and doctors on September 25, 1903 in Kassel. Vogel, Leipzig 1903.
  • Control of tuberculosis. Lecture given at the German Agriculture Council on March 14th. Georg Thieme Verlag, Leipzig 1903.
  • Development of tuberculosis, tuberculosis control and infant feeding. August Hirschwald, Berlin 1904.
  • The suppression of tuberculosis. Together with Observations Concerning Phthisiogenesis in Man and Animals, and Suggestions Concerning the Hygiene of cow stables, and the Production of Milk for Infant feeding, with special Reference to Tuberculosis. 1904.
  • Modern phthisiogenetic and phthisiotherapeutic problems in historical lighting. Marburg 1905.
  • Introduction to the teaching of the fight against infectious diseases. August Hirschwald, Berlin 1912.
  • Emil von Behring's collected treatises. Marcus & Weber, Bonn 1915. (2013, ISBN 978-3-86444-862-1 ).

Research, archive, foundation

  • The researcher's archive, which was transferred to the Philipps University of Marburg in 2011 , was prepared for the Internet by May 2012 and is available there at www.uni-marburg.de/behring-digital.
  • There is also the Emil von Behring Library / Work Center for the History of Medicine in Marburg (www.uni-marburg.de/fb20/evbb).
  • The Friends of Emil von Behring e. V. supports medical history work and maintains the Behring estate (www.uni-marburg.de/fb20/evbb/behring-digital/foerderverein).
  • The Von Behring Röntgen Foundation (www.br-stiftung.de) also operates from Marburg.


  • 2001: With all the ruthlessness at my command . Emil von Behring. Marburg Nobel Prize Winner 1901. Exhibition by the Cultural Office of the City of Marburg, December 12, 2001 to January 28, 2002 in the town hall of Marburg
  • 2011: Life and work of Emil von Behring , Südsaal, Landgrafenschloss Marburg on the occasion of the transfer of the personal and company archives to the Philipps University of Marburg
    • "Blood is a very special juice". Emil von Behring 1854–1917. Scientist, Nobel Prize Winner. Entrepreneur. Local politician . Exhibition from June 15 to September 18, 2011 in the Landgrave Castle in Marburg .
  • 2013: Opening of the permanent exhibition “Blood is a very special juice”. Emil von Behring 1854–1917 in the building at Bahnhofstrasse 7 in Marburg on the Behring Route Marburg . The exhibition is open to the public on weekdays from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and during guided tours (www.marburg.de/behring-route).


  • Sönke Wortmann (director), Dorothee Schön, Sabine Thor-Wiedemann (script): Charité , ARD, 2017, six parts (the historical figure E. v. Behrings is one of the main roles in the television series, feature film).


The life's work of Nobel Prize winner Emil von Behrings
  • Hellmuth Unger : Immortal Legacy. Emil von Behring's life's work. Gerhard Stalling publishing house, Oldenburg iO / Berlin 1940.
  • Richard Bieling : Death was left behind. Emil von Behring - figure and work. Bielefelder Verlag, Bielefeld 1954.
  • Ulrike Enke: Behring's legacies - Behring's biographies. In: Reports on the History of Science , 37, 2014, pp. 216–239.
  • Werner Köhler : Behring, Emil von. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 160 f.
  • Paul de Kruif : Roux and Behring. Against diphtheria! In: Paul de Kruif: Microbe hunters. (Original edition: Microbe Hunters. Harcourt, Brace & Co., New York 1926) Orell Füssli Verlag, Zurich / Leipzig 1927; 8th edition ibid 1940, pp. 175-197.
  • Derek S. Linton: Emil von Behring. Infectious Disease, Immunology, Serum Therapy. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia 2005, ISBN 0-87169-255-4 .
  • Hans Schadewaldt : The beginnings of immunology. Emil Behring's serum therapy. In: Heinz Schott (Hrsg.): Milestones in medicine. Harenberg, Dortmund 1996, ISBN 3-611-00536-3 , pp. 375-380.
  • H. Schadewaldt : Behring, Emil von . In: Charles Coulston Gillispie (Ed.): Dictionary of Scientific Biography . tape 1 : Pierre Abailard - LS Berg . Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1970, p. 574-578 .

Web links

Commons : Emil von Behring  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. see Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg (HStAMR), Best. 915 No. 5708, p. 234 ( digitized version ).
  2. ^ Hermann (1856–1924), Ernst Wilhelm (1857–1904), Anna Bertha (1859–1927), Bernhard Robert (1861 to approx. 1896), August Ludwig (* 1862), Albert (1864–1913), Paul Richard (1867-1928) and Emma (1869-1926). - According to Ruth Hoevel, Karl Otto: The family of the serum researcher Emil v. Behring. In: Archive of East German genealogists. 3rd volume 1967, p. 226.
  3. Ulrike Enke: 125 years of diphtheria healing serum: "Das Behring'sche Gold". Deutsches Ärzteblatt , December 4, 2015, accessed on November 4, 2019 .
  4. Arnold Eiermann: The device for displaying the diphtheria healing serum in the Höchst color works. In: Münchener Medicinische Wochenschrift. 41, 1894, pp. 1038-1040.
  5. Carola Throm: The Diphtheria Serum. A new therapy principle, its development and launch. Stuttgart 1995, pp. 54 and 206.
  6. Kösener Corpslisten 1960, 61/99
  7. Muriel Gardiner (ed.): Der Wolfsmann vom Wolfsmann. Frankfurt am Main 1972, p. 75.
  8. ^ Behring digital estate at Philipps University of Marburg uni-marburg.de .
  9. ^ A b c Bernhard vom Brocke : Emil von Behring , in: Wolfgang U. Eckart and Christoph Gradmann (eds.): Ärztelexikon. From antiquity to the 20th century , 1st edition 1995 CH Beck Munich pp. 50–52, medical dictionary. From antiquity to the present , 2nd edition 2001, pp. 36–38, 3rd edition 2006 Springer Verlag Heidelberg, Berlin, New York pp. 37–39. doi: 10.1007 / 978-3-540-29585-3 .
  10. Ruth Hoevel, Karl Otto: The family of the serum researcher Emil v. Behring. In: Archive of East German genealogists. 3rd Volume 1967, pp. 226-228.
  11. a b c d according to NDB
  12. Letters and Notes on the Internet. In: FAZ . May 5, 2012, p. 58.
  13. Eckart Roloff , Karin Henke-Wendt: In the footsteps of the great physician Emil von Behring. (Blood is a very special juice / Behring route, Marburg) In: Visit your doctor or pharmacist. A tour through Germany's museums for medicine and pharmacy. Volume 2: Southern Germany. Verlag S. Hirzel, Stuttgart 2015, ISBN 978-3-7776-2511-9 , pp. 201-202.