History of Medicine

Dr. Otto Heinrich Warburg—Survivor of Ethical Storms

George M. Weisz


Otto Heinrich Warburg (1883–1970; not to be confused with the Zionist of the same name) was a member of an illustrious Jewish family, known for some five centuries. From humble beginnings, the family became prominent in the world for their contributions to all aspects of society. The son of a German mother and a Jewish (converted) father, Otto H. Warburg became a major contributor to medical science in the field of cancer research. Considered for Nobel Prize more than once, he finally received it in 1931 for his discovery of the nature and mode of action of the cellular respiratory enzyme. Warburg’s personality was controversial: he was intolerant of opposing scientific views yet tolerant toward Nazi abuses. Accused of collaboration under the Nazi regime, Otto H. Warburg was nevertheless readmitted to the global scientific community after World War II. His contribution to cancer research remains influential to this day and has been superseded by discoveries that have built upon his work.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2015;6(1):e0008