B A Houssay

Date: 17 Nov 1947
Owner: Archivo General de la Nacion, Mexico
Source Type: Images


Bernardo Alberto Houssay (1887-1971) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering the role of the anterior hypophysis (or, pituitary gland) in the metabolism of sugar. He was born in Buenos Aires where he excelled in medicine at a very young age, graduating from the pharmacy school of the University of Buenos Aires when he was only seventeen years old. After earning his MD from the University's medical school in 1911, he founded the university's Institute of Physiology eight years later and served as its director until the authoritarian government removed him in 1943 for signing a manifesto demanding real democracy in Argentina.

Houssay and his institute were supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, which hoped to spread the practices and values of university laboratories in the United States to research centers in Latin America. Yet Houssay maintained a distinctly Latin American style of research that allowed him to achieve excellence despite adverse conditions. His laboratory work resembled an efficient assembly line, in which large numbers of student-assistants (called monitores) worked assiduously with low-budget technology. Their research focused on endocrinology, especially the hypophysis, which they discovered played a key role in the onset of diabetes, a disease previously considered to stem only from the pancreas.

Houssay won the Nobel Prize in 1947 for this discovery, the first Latin American scientist to earn the award. Despite several offers for positions in the U.S. and elsewhere, Houssay was fiercely patriotic and insisted on working in and for Argentina. Houssay and his disciples (including future Nobel winner Luis Leloir) gave Argentinean physiology international renown.

Reference: Cueto, Marcos. "Laboratory Styles in Argentine Physiology." In Isis, vol. 85, no. 2. (June, 1994), p. 228-246.

CITATION: B A Houssay. Collection of the Archivo General de la Nación, México.