Karl Landsteiner: Person who discovered Blood’s ABO system

Karl Landsteiner: Person who discovered Blood’s ABO system


Karl Landsteiner, born in 1868 in Austria, was the first biologist to identify different human blood types. He was allowed to study Medicine merely at the age of seventeen years and acquired a degree in medicine from the University of Vienna. In 1930 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine “for his discovery of human blood groups”.

He chose to become a medical researcher instead of medical practitioner and performed depth research on human blood types. Blood transfusion was the most difficult task of that time and undergoing blood transfusion was very risky. One could die because of a hemolytic reaction caused by antibodies. While there had been successful experiments with blood transfusions as far back as 1818, many transfusions resulted in illness or death. He decided on to research for Blood and its compatibility as many scientists believed that the blood of every person was the same.

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In 1900, Landsteiner began to consider an alternative explanation. Suspecting that transfusion between even healthy individuals may result in clotting, he proposed that humans may belong to different blood groups characterized by distinct antigens and corresponding antibodies with reactivity against other blood groups. After working hard for almost an year testing several blood samples, Karl Landsteiner announced in 1901 that there were three major human blood groups: A, B and C (which was later called O). A year later in 1902, his three fellow scientists discovered a new and fourth blood type named “AB”. He also published his first scientific work which explained the influence of diet on the composition of blood.

Then the blood types of the donors and the recipients were to be first matched before processing blood transfusions. His discovery made blood transfusions a routine medical procedure and saved countless lives.


Awards and Honors

Landsteiner was a member of the Imperial Society of Physicians in Vienna (1902), the National Academy of Sciences (1932), and the American Philosophical Society (1935). He was an honorary foreign member of the German Academy of Sciences (1927) and the Royal Society (1941)

1926: Hans Aronson Foundation Prize

1930: Paul Ehrlich Medal

1933: Dutch Red Cross Medal

1946: Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award


Landsteiner was described as a modest, tremendous intellect man known for his wide reading & scientific knowledge and interests.

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