Biological Research

Date: 1943
Owner: Ariel Barrios Medina
Source Type: Images


This photograph shows a laboratory in Argentina's Instituto de Biologia y Medicina Experimental (IBME), an institute founded in 1943 by prominent physiologists who had been forced out of their university positions (and, at times, imprisoned) by Argentina's authoritarian government for promoting democracy and supporting the Allies in World War II. The leading figure for the IBME was Bernardo Houssay, an internationally renowned physiologist who had been the head of the University of Buenos Aires' Physiology Department and, in 1947, was the first Latin American to win a Nobel Prize for science. Like Houssay's earlier work, the IBME was funded in part by the Rockefeller Foundation.

The laboratory pictured here contains several identical workstations (lined up on the left), a staple of the distinctive laboratory style Houssay had promulgated amongst Argentine physiology (in this lab, the experiments are done on caged mice, though Houssay often used dogs for his work on the pituitary gland). In lieu of the experienced researchers and expensive equipment that bolstered research in Europe and the U.S., Houssay employed decidedly low-tech equipment in an assembly line style and focused on topics (like endocrinology) that were being eschewed by the world's research powers. Despite pressure from the Rockefeller Foundation to co-opt U.S.-style research methods, Houssay's technique proved effective and several of his best disciples (many of whom worked with him at the IBME) established their own research institutions throughout Argentina, further promulgating Houssay's methodology.

With the election of a democratic government in 1958, the IBME became incorporated into the University of Buenos Aires and, citing Argentina's instability, the Rockefeller Foundation withdrew Houssay's funding. This confluence of events prompted many of his best students to give up their long struggle for Argentine science and leave the country for more stable careers. Houssay, a devoted patriot, remained in Argentina until his death in 1971.

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

CITATION: Ariel Barrios Medina, from