Ludwik Hirszfeld, (1884-1954), born in Warsaw, Poland. He was a professor of microbiology and immunology; established the foundation of knowledge of human blood types. He also introduced the new cholera vaccination while he had worked in Serbia. His works include the edition of first Polish medical periodical that dealt with experimental medicine.
During World War I, Ludwik and Hanka Hirszfeld took blood samples from the soldiers of three continents then assembled on the Macedonian front, as well as from locals, and discovered variations in blood group frequencies among them.
Hirszfeld is considered one of the co-discovers of the inheritance of ABO blood type. He established a laboratory of experimental medicine at the State Institute of Hygiene in Poland shortly after the World War I. In 1946, he published his autobiography, The Story of One Life.
After War World II, he co-organized the Maria Sklodowska-Curie University in Lublin, where he taught.
The Hirszfeld Biochemical Index
The Hirszfeld 'biochemical index' (A + AB) /(B + AB) can be used most conveniently to express the relative ratio of blood group A to B in any population.
A few typical examples are:
An interpetation of the Biochemical Index, in 'Blood-groups and Race' by J.MILLOT Professor at the Sorbonne, Paris (1938):
It had been noticed ever since the first investigations, that the proportions of the different groups maintained a remarkable constancy in a given population, amongst the Germans or the Italians, for instance. But the suggestion (due L. and H.Hirszfeld) that there might be a relation between the anthropological content and the distribution of agglutinogens was not put forward until later.
Being attached during the war to the medical service of the Army of the East, these biologists had opportunities of examining the serological properties of the blood of a large number of soldiers or civilians belonging to very different races. They established three categories: one marked by a high percentage of subjects of group Aand a low percentage of B,and including the majority of European races (European type):a second showing on the contrary a high percentage of B and a low one of A, comprising Mongoloids and Ethiopians (Asio-African type): and a last category containing approximately equal quantities ofA and B, comprising Russians, Turks, Arabs and Jews (intermediate type). This discovery, published in 1919, gave rise to a considerable number of investigations, producing an enormous mass of documents of varying merit, and emphasized the great ethnological interest of blood-groups.
It would need many pages to give a complete account of the results, and we must therefore confine ourselves here to describing a few of the essential features.
Hirszfeld thought he could conveniently synthesize these features by calculating for each race a 'biochemical index', obtained by dividing the percentage of A by the percentage of B, that is to say, (A + AB) /(B + AB).
The biochemical index for the European type thus fell between 2.5 and 4.5, the index of the Asio-African type between 0.5 and 1.1, and the index of the intermediate type between 1.3 and 1.8. This index has been much used. But the most recent researches have shown, on the one hand that the seroethnic types established by Hirszfeld were not exact enough, on the other that the biochemical index was open to serious criticism.
Many other formulae have been proposed to replace that of Hirszfeld, but without offering any clear advantages over it. On the other hand successful use has been made of tables, which have proved most instructive. The examination of such tables enables us, following [Reuben Ottenberg? Ottenberg], to distinguish a certain number of quite well marked sero-ethnic types.
One such is remarkable for its extreme poverty in both A and B, that is to say it includes almost exclusively only the subjects of Group O. It comprises the American Indians, the Filipinos, and most of the Eskimos of pure race;it is called the Americo-Pacific type. A second type, adjacent, rather deficient in B, but richer in A, is represented by the Australians (Australian type). A third, again poor in B, but very rich in A,includes all western European type. A fourth type is marked by a moderate proportion of A and B, and includes the Negroes, Melanesians, southern Asiatics (Annamites, Javanese) and is called the Afro-Malay or Afro-south-Asiatic type. A fifth, embracing the Near Easterns (Turks, Persians, Armenians, Arabs) as well as Russians and Czechs, has a moderate proportion of Band a high percentage of A (intermediate type).
A sixth has a very high proportion of A with a considerable but lower proportion of B; called Hunan, after the name of the Chinese province, it includes, besides that region, the Japanese, a part of the Koreans, and in Europe the Poles, Ukrainians and Hungarians. Lastly, a seventh type, poor in A, but the richest of all in B, comprises all the Hindus, the north Chinese, the Manchurians,and in Europe the Gipsies (Indo-Manchurian type).
Such in outline is the actual classification of races according to the serological properties of their blood. Some anthropologists have criticized it severely, going even so far as to deny that blood-groups have any ethnological value at all. They claim that from a study of it one can deduce no valid argument bearing on the relationship of races. They point out, for instance, that Hindus and Europeans have wholly dissimilar blood, whereas there are good reasons for supposing that both are descended from a common stock;on the other hand, the Lapps, who are of Asiatic origin and very different from the Norwegians, are made to belong with them to the European type. They argue also that Jews occur in almost all the categories, as much amongst Afro-Malays as in Europe (German Jews), amongst the Intermediates (Spanish Jews) or amongst those of the Hunan type (Roumanian Jews and Jews of Beirut). These objections have very little weight. It is now agreed that Hindus and Europeans are much less closely connected than was formerly supposed, on the strength of linguistic evidence wrongly interpreted. The Lapps have very irregular blood-formulae, and they are sufficiently intermarried with their Scandinavian neighbours to make it not at all surprising that their original blood should have been modified and now approximates to that of Europeans. Finally, we may now regard it as certain that the Jews do not constitute a true race, but a group of communities which are ethnically distinct andunited primarily by a common bond of religion.
In their lives, rather than their blood, the Hirszfelds themselves were a parable of how fluid ethnic affiliation can be: Polish Jews, attached to the Serbian army and the university of Zurich, converting to Catholicism, later confined nevertheless to the Warsaw Ghetto, where Ludwik gave illegal lectures on medical topics, including one on blood groups and race. They survived into a world in which, because of the oppression they suffered on grounds of blood, race was a guilty and discredited notion.
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