Ernst Witebsky

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Ernst Witebsky, also Ernest Witebsky (3 September 1901 in Frankfurt am Main – 7 December 1969) was a German-American immunologist.

From 1920 to 1926 Witebsky studied medicine at the University of Frankfurt and the University of Heidelberg. He stayed at Heidelberg after graduating and worked with Dr. Hans Sachs. At Heidelberg he primarily worked with brain and organ tissue, as well as blood group antigens.

Leaving Germany as a result of Nazi pressure, he joined the Medical School of the University at Buffalo in 1935.


Witebsky helped develop procedures for the isolation and partial characterization of A and B blood antigens. He also began the practice of neutralization of certain antibodies in the blood of universal blood donors.

In 1957 he co-authored a paper that first formulated "Witebsky's postulates" that determine whether a disease entity can be regarded as an autoimmune disease. They were modified in 1993.[1][2]

Witebsky received the Karl Landsteiner Award in 1959 for his work with blood antibodies.


  1. ^ Witebsky E, Rose NR, Terplan K, Paine JR, Egan RW (1957). "Chronic thyroiditis and autoimmunization". J. Am. Med. Assoc. 164 (13): 1439–47. doi:10.1001/jama.1957.02980130015004. PMID 13448890.
  2. ^ Rose NR, Bona C (September 1993). "Defining criteria for autoimmune diseases (Witebsky's postulates revisited)". Immunol. Today. 14 (9): 426–30. doi:10.1016/0167-5699(93)90244-F. PMID 8216719.

Witebsky's original postulates from 1957 state: 1957 Postulates - Direct demonstration of free circulating antibodies active at body temperature. - Recognition of the specific antigen (for this antibody). - Production of antibodies against same antigen in experimental animals. - Experimental animal demonstrates same tissue changes in human.

Revised Postulates - Auto-antibodies detectable in all cases of disease. - Experimentally reproducible by immunization with antigen. - Experimental disease must show immunopathological lesions that parallel those in the natural disease. - Transferable by serum or lymphoid cells.

The modern revisions consider three types of evidence: - Direct evidence from transfer of pathogenic antibody or pathogenic T-cells. - Indirect evidence based on reproduction of the autoimmune disease in experimental animals. - Circumstantial evidence from clinical clues.

Further reading[edit]

  • National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (1975) "Witebsky, Ernest (1901-1969)" The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography: Volume 56 James T. White & Co., New York;
  • Marquis Who's Who (1973) "Witebsky, Ernest (1901-1969)" Who Was Who in America, Volume 5, 1969-1973, Marquis Who's Who, Chicago;
  • Milgrom, Felix (June 1970) "Obituary:Ernest Witebsky" Blood 35(6): pp. 869-870;

External links[edit]