Selmar Aschheim

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Selmar Aschheim | © Bildarchiv Institut für Geschichte der Medizin, Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Selmar Aschheim | © Bildarchiv Institut für Geschichte der Medizin, Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Selmar Aschheim (Berlin 1878 - 1965, Paris). From 1908 Aschheim worked at the bio-histological laboratory of the Charité Gynecological Clinic under Robert Meyer (1864-1947). He became Meyer's successor and soon after received the position of Head of the Gynecological Clinic. Together with the gynecologist Bernhard Zondek (1891-1966) who in 1933 had become chief physician at Spandau City Hospital and who later emigrated to Palestine, the two men discovered the hormone in the urine of pregnant women, developed the first reliable pregnancy test, which was referred to over many decades worldwide as the Aschheim-Zondek reaction and laid the foundations of our knowledge of gonadal hormones. In 1931 the Nobel Prize Committee suggested that these two men should be recognised for their discoveries on the importance of front pituitary segments for sexual function and their discoveries regarding physiological pregnancy responses. However, the Nobel Assembly decided to give the award instead to Otto Warburg (1883-1970).

Selmar Aschheim | © Bildarchiv Institut für Geschichte der Medizin, Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Selmar Aschheim | © Bildarchiv Institut für Geschichte der Medizin, Universitätsmedizin Berlin

From 1931 Aschheim was an honorary professor. He was dismissed in 1933 due to his Jewish heritage and because he was considered to be "political unreliable" and he fled to France in 1937. Following the German occupation he lived underground until after the war when he became a French citizen and was later Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, Hôpital Beaujon.

(Text: Udo Schagen, 2013)