Monday, April 06, 2020

It's Never Too Late and You're Never Too Old To ...

Dr. Otto Loewi (d. 1961)
In 1936, Austrian scientist Otto Loewi and his lifelong friend, British scientist Sir Henry Dale, were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work on the chemical transmission of electrical impulses in the human body. 

Otto, a Jew living in Vienna, received a sizable cash prize upon being awarded to Nobel Prize.

You think you have it rough during these COVID-19 days? 

Listen to Dr. Loewi's story.

Less than two years after being awarded the Nobel Prize, on 12 March 1938, Germany invaded Austria. 

Neighbors informed Otto Loewi that afternoon that the Nazis had taken over Austria. Otto, preoccupied with his research, ignored the significance of this news.

At 3:00 am the next morning, a dozen SS troops burst into his home, dragged the Jewish scientist out of his bed, and carted him off to prison,   Anticipating he would murdered by the Nazis, Otto managed to scribble the results of his latest research on to a postcard, 

Addressing the card to a scientific journal (Die Naturwissenshaften), Dr. Loewi persuaded a prison guard to stick in the mail. 

Otto felt indescribable joy that his results would not be lost, and he anticipated death to come soon. 

But two months later Otto Loewi was released from his Nazi jail, and told he could leave the country IF he gave all his assets to the Nazis including his Nobel Prize money. The SS listened as Otto instructed his Swiss bank to transfer the funds to a Nazi-controlled bank. The money became Otto's  ransom for his life. 

Dr. Otto Loewi escaped to England without a penny to his name.

After spending time with Sir Henry Dale in London, Loewi held temporary appointments in Brussels and Oxford, before setting sailing to the United States in 1939.

He came to the United States to hold a research professorship in pharmacology at New York University Medical School. But when he arrived in New York in June 1940, at the age of sixty-seven, all he had in his possession were the clothes on his back, his visa, and his doctor’s certificate. While waiting to see the immigration officer, Otto grew horrified when he discovered the Visa had stamped on it ‘Senility, not able to earn his living’.

Fortunately the officer chose to ignore this questionable handicap, and Loewi was allowed into the United States. 

Otto Loewi was never bitter about the upheaval to his life. 

In fact, he considered that fate had been kind to him. In the United States he was able in the USA he was able to pursue his scientific endeavors during a time when his native Austrian government would have forced him to retire. 

For another twenty-one years (1940-1961), Dr. Otto Loew continued to inspire successive generations of students and spend his summers in ever-animated discussion at the Marine Biological Laboratories at Wood’s Hole.

It's never too late, and your never too old, to begin again. 

(Adapted from The Spark of Life: Electricity in the Human Body by Francis Ashcroft, (pp. 83-84). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition)


Bob Cleveland said...

I've never experienced anything like that, but it does cause me to reflect back on my childhood.

I grew up as a shy, insecure, high-strung introvert. with a poor self-image. And when I examine those characteristics, I am forced to praise God.

Somehow God has molded every trait, without exception, into a real plus in my life.

Incidentally those traits were told to me by an Industrial Psychologist when I was in my 30's (a new employer sent me there to make sure I wouldn't "Go Postal" some day.

Christiane said...

"Neighbors informed Otto Loewi that afternoon that the Nazis had taken over Austria. Otto, preoccupied with his research, ignored the significance of this news."

good neighbors . . . they tried to help him

the 'signs' are usually there before disaster strikes, but is it a case of we CAN'T recognized them OR we WON'T recognize them?

the signs were there for a pandemic in our own time also, 'friends' tried to warn of it
but apparently when the word came in, the pre-occupation was over 'when are the manufacturers going to start producing flavored vaping salts again'

people have their priorities, so it was with the good Dr. Loewi, and it was providential that he did not die and that his work was saved

for reasons we may never fathom, a pandemic was first ignored, then minimized, then blamed on others, then assigned to others to deal with and so it went . . and so it goes

We need the Hand of Providence now for the sake of the fragile, the innocent, the vulnerable and for the front line medical professionals and first responder Americans of valor . . . may help come in time for them is the prayer of many

Rex Ray said...


We were 15 and 16 when we lived in Germany. A neighbor kid told us that Americans are lucky that we could grow up and work at whatever we wanted to, but he would be a baker just as his father. He said when we got back to America, we’d forget him and never write. We assured him he was wrong, but he was right.

His name was Otto.

Christiane said...

Rex Ray, thank you for your condolences concerning our family's loss.
I left a note for you on that site in appreciation. I was much comforted and am grateful. God Bless!

Rex Ray said...


Yes, I read you comment on the other post. If anyone deserves comfort, it’s you.

My brother’s son is having a hard time. He texted today: “I enjoyed the ‘Pigtail story’. I told him how his father, Hez, spent a lot of time as punishment under the teacher’s desk when we were in the third grade.

I sat behind him, and he sat behind a girl who had her hair in ‘pigtails’. (I’ll name her “Pigtails”. He enjoyed pulling them which caused her to fuss at him. The teacher would get on her, but when she explained, Hez sat on a newspaper under her desk. He was a ‘slow learner’ and was under there at least once a week.

Both of us like another girl, but when she wrote me a note saying, “I love you”, I wrote her saying the same thing. Hez read the notes as he pasted them to us. He decided to enter the game, and wrote Pigtails “I love you.”

Her reply was, I love Rex I hate you.