As the 2020 Nobel Prize announcement week begins, Professor of History Derek Linton, a national authority on the history of medicine and immunology, is featured in an article about Emil von Behring, winner of the first Nobel Prize for medicine.
CSL Behring, the biotechnology company founded by Behring in the early 20th century, highlights Linton’s thoughts about COVID-19 “and the urgent search for treatments” that bring to mind “von Behring’s innovations…as well as the contributions of fellow scientist Japanese researcher Shibasaburo Kitasato. In 1890s Berlin, the two ‘developed principles and procedures that resulted in viable and commercially available tetanus and diphtheria antitoxins.’”
The article notes: “The science has evolved, of course, but these principles and procedures are precisely the same as those used for the development of antiviral convalescent sera today, said Linton, who teaches at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York.”
Linton is the author of Emil von Behring: Infectious Disease, Immunology, Serum Therapy, the first major English-language biography of von Behring, who won the first Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1901 for diphtheria antitoxin serum. The book explores von Behring’s contributions to the study of infectious diseases, basic immunology and drug testing, as well as his relations to the rival schools of Pasteur and Koch, the emergent pharmaceutical industry and the creation of institutes for experimental therapeutic research. Linton received the John Frederick Lewis Award from the American Philosophical Society when the biography was published in 2005. He is also the author of the previous book, Who Has the Youth, Has the Future, which explores German youth policy in the early 20th century.
A member of the Hobart and William Smith faculty since 1984, Linton teaches a range of courses examining the intersections of science, public health and major world events, including World War I and World War II. He is a member of the American Association for the History of Medicine, the American Historical Association and the German Studies Association, and has also served on National Library of Medicine/National Institutes of Health grant review panels for the past decade. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Princeton University. From 2015 to 2020, Linton served as the Joseph P. DiGangi Endowed Chair at HWS.