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Hans Eppinger was born in Prague, the son of the physician Hans Eppinger Sr. He received an education in Graz and Strasbourg. In 1903 he became a medical doctor in Graz, working at a medical clinic. He moved to Vienna in 1908, and in 1909 he specialized in internal medicine, particularly conditions of the liver. He became a professor in 1918, then taught in Freiburg in 1926 and in Cologne in 1930.
Experiments at Dachau
During World War II he gained an infamous reputation due to his experiments on prisoners at the Dachau concentration camp. Along with professor Wilhelm Beigelbock, he performed tests on 90 Romani prisoners by providing them sea water as their only source of fluids. (In some cases the taste of the water was disguised to hide the saline content.) The prisoners suffered from severe dehydration, and witnesses reported that they had been seen licking the floors they had mopped in an attempt to get some water. The goal of the experiment was to determine if the prisoners would suffer severe physical symptoms or death within a period of 6–12 days.
Following the war he committed suicide, reportedly using poison. This occurred a month before he was to be called to testify at the Nuremberg Trials. Much later it was discovered that he had an unclaimed Swiss bank account.
Eponymous medical terms
The following medical terms were named after Eppinger:
- Cauchois-Eppinger-Frugoni syndrome
- Eppinger's spider naevus
Since 1970, the Falk Foundation of Freiburg had awarded the Eppinger Prize for outstanding contributions to liver research. However when Eppinger's activities at Dachau came to light three years later, the prize was cancelled.
In 1976, the lunar crater 'Euclides D' was renamed by the IAU to honor Hans Eppinger. However, in 2002, after Eppinger's association with Nazi prison camps had been brought to the attention of the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature by the Lunar Republic Society, the name was dropped. As of July 2009, the crater is once again officially listed as Euclides D.
- pg221 of "Rosalyn Yalow, Nobel Laureate: Her Life and Work in Medicine" Eugene Straus. Basic Books, year 2000
- New York Times November 16, 1984 "German Medical Prize Canceled Over Nazi Link"
- Hans Eppinger at "Who Named It?"
- The Ethics Of Using Medical Data From Nazi Experiments by Baruch C. Cohen.