Walter Rudolf Hess

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A Swiss scientist named Walter Rudolf Hess made one of the most important discoveries in human history by discovering the role of distinct areas of the brain in deciding and coordinating the functioning of the internal organs. Walter Rudolf Hess had a successful career as a surgeon and afterwards as an ophthalmologist when he abruptly changed his mind and decided to pursue his passion for physiology. Hess left his successful career as an ophthalmologist in 1912 and returned to the University of Zurich to work as an assistant to Professor Gaule in the department of physiology. Hess began mapping the portions of the diencephalon that govern internal organs in 1930. He noticed that mapping some areas of the brain revealed unique physiological reactions. Any form of internal organ response could be elicited, from enthusiasm to apathy, hunger to feces. In 1949, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his work. Hess was a professor and Director of the Department of Physiological Institute at the University of Zurich in addition to his professional activity. In 1930, he helped found the International Foundation for the High Alpine Research Station Jungfraujoch, and he remained its director until 1937.

Childhood and Adolescence

Walter Rudolf Hess was born in Frauenfeld, Switzerland, on March 17, 1881, to Clemens and Gertrud Hess. He was the second of the couple’s three children. His father was a physics instructor. Young Hess absorbed his father’s knowledge, which allowed him to operate the physics laboratory’s apparatus and equipment. Hess was a self-sufficient child. He was gifted with keen observational abilities, which enabled him to keep a careful eye on his surroundings.

In 1900, Hess finished his official schooling at the Gymnasium. Hess pursued a scientific career as a result of his father’s encouragement. Before completing his medical degree at the University of Zurich in 1906, he visited a number of universities in Lausanne, Berne, Berlin, and Kiel.

Though Walter Rudolf Hess had always wanted to be a physiologist, he was unable to pursue his dream after completing his education due to a number of issues. As a result, he studied surgery under Conrad Brunner. Hess published his dissertation, ‘Zum Thema Viskosit√§t des Blutes und Herzarbeit,’ while assisting Bruner. He also invented the viscosimeter, a device that measures the viscosity of blood.

In 1907, he went to Zurich to study ophthalmology under Otto Haab at the University of Zurich. Hess began practicing as an ophthalmologist after completing his studies. Hess developed a feeling of accuracy and meticulousness while working as an ophthalmologist, which he later used in his profession as a physiologist. Hess made the bold decision in 1912 to abandon his lucrative career as an ophthalmologist in order to pursue his first love, physiology. He studied under Justus Gaule and obtained a Privatdozent the following year. Hess was fascinated by blood flow and respiratory regulation.

During WWI, Hess remained at the University of Bonn’s Physiological Institute, where he was mentored by Max Verworn. When Gaule retired in 1916, Hess became the interim director of the University of Zurich’s Department of the Physiological Institute. Hess was elevated to full-time professor and Director of the University of Zurich’s Physiological Institute in 1917. He held this job until 1951, when he retired.

Hess traveled to the English subcontinent after World War I and met a number of English physiologists, including Langley, Sherrington, Starling, Hopkins, Dale, and others. Hess specialized in haemodynamics and respiratory regulation during his physiological career. He got fascinated by the autonomic nervous system, which consists of nerves that originate at the base of the brain and reach all the way to the spinal cord. These nerves are in charge of the body’s automatic activities, such as digestion and excretion.

Hess used a brain stimulation technique established in the 1920s in his studies. He activated or damaged the brain at well-defined anatomical locations using fine electrodes. Using this method, he was able to map the brain’s regions based on their physiological reactions.

According to Hess’ research, activating the hypothalamus of the brain aided producing behavior ranging from excitement to apathy, depending on the stimulation region. When the anterior region of the hypothalamus was stimulated, low blood pressure, sluggish breathing, and hunger, thirst, micturition (urination), and feces were all common reactions. When the posterior region of the hypothalamus was stimulated, however, intense agitation and defense-like behavior were observed.

Hess mapped the control centers for each function to the point that he could simulate the physical behavior pattern of a cat faced by a dog simply by stimulating the appropriate places on the hypothalamus without the dog being there. In 1949, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for mapping the region of the diencephalon that regulated the internal organ.

Hess formed the International Foundation for the High Alpine Research Station Jungfraujoch in 1930 and served as its Director until 1937, in addition to his academic career and research activity. Hess did not totally abandon his scientific career after retiring in 1951. Instead, he continued to work in an office at the institution.

Major Projects of Walter

Hess deduced that specific portions of the brain are involved in clarifying and coordinating the operations of the internal organs. Further research led him to the conclusion that the interbrain served as a coordinator for the internal organs’ functions such as digestion, urination, excretion, and so on. In 1949, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for this work.

Achievements & Awards

In 1932, Hess was awarded the Marcel Benoist Prize. In 1949, Hess was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, the world’s highest honor. He received the award for discovering the interbrain’s functional organization as a coordinator of the actions of the internal organs. Hess received honorary doctorate degrees from a number of universities throughout the world during his lifetime, including Bern, Geneva, McGill University, and the University of Freiburg.

Personal History and Legacy

Louise Sandmeier was Walter Rudolf Hess’s wife. The marriage had two children: Gertrud Hess, born in 1910, and Rudolf Max Hess, born in 1913. He died of heart failure on August 12, 1973, in Locarno, Switzerland, at the age of 92.

Estimated Net Worth

Walter is one of the wealthiest doctors and one of the most popular. Walter Rudolf Hess’ net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.