Hans Kosterlitz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Hans Kosterlitz
Born Hans Walter Kosterlitz
(1903-04-27)27 April 1903
Died 26 October 1996(1996-10-26) (aged 93)
Citizenship Germany, Great Britain
Nationality British, German (before 1933)
Fields Biochemistry
Institutions University of Aberdeen
Alma mater Humboldt University of Berlin
Known for Endorphins
Notable awards Harvey Prize (1981)
Fellow of the Royal Society (1978)[1]
Royal Medal (1979)
Spouse Hannah Greßhöner

Hans Walter Kosterlitz FRS[1] (27 April 1903 – 26 October 1996) was a German Jewish British biologist.[2] He is the father of Nobel Prize-winning physicist John Kosterlitz.

Kosterlitz earned a Doctor of Medicine (Dr. med) at Humboldt University of Berlin. He emigrated to Scotland in 1934, after the Nazi takeover in Germany led to antisemitic legislation that barred him from his job at Charité in Berlin.[2] The affair shocked him and he fled to the UK, and after obtaining work in the UK, he was able to obtain safe-haven for his mother, brother, and fiancée Hannah. He joined the staff of University of Aberdeen in the same year, as an Assistant in the Physiology Department. Over the years he was a Carnegie Teaching Fellow, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, and finally Reader. In 1968, Aberdeen established a new Department of Pharmacology, which was headed by Kosterlitz as professor until 1973, when he became director of the university's drug addiction research unit.[3][4]

Kosterlitz is best known for his work as one of the key discoverers[2] of endorphins.[5][6] He performed a famous experiment that he envisioned in a dream while sleeping. He stimulated a strip of guinea pig intestine electrically and record its contractions with a polygraph. He then found that if you added opiates to the solution, the intestine would not contract. Opiates inhibit intestinal contraction. Those contractions were later found to resume in the presence of both opiates and an antagonist such as naloxone. Later, endogenous endorphins were discovered by applying pig brain cell homegenate to the apparatus. This caused the contractions to cease. The degree to which an opiate agonist inhibits contractions in the guinea pig ileum is highly correlated to its potency.

Kosterlitz was given the Scheele Award in 1977, and shared the Albert Lasker Award with John Hughes and Solomon H. Snyder in 1978 for his work in the discovery of the opiate receptors and their natural ligands. The Kosterlitz Centre at the University of Aberdeen, opened on 16 September 2010, is named in his honor.

Hans Kosterlitz was the brother of the film director Henry Koster, born Hermann Kosterlitz. He was married, since 1937, to Hannah Greßhöner, sister of Maria Greßhöner, aka Maria Osten. Their son, J. Michael, is Professor of Physics at Brown University, who won the the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2016


  1. ^ a b North, R. A.; Hughes, J. (2013). "Hans Walter Kosterlitz. 27 April 1903 -- 26 October 1996". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 59: 171–192. doi:10.1098/rsbm.2012.0037. 
  2. ^ a b c Goldberg, Jeff. Anatomy of a Scientific Discovery: The Race to Find the Body's Own Morphine. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 13 Dec 2013
  3. ^ Lees, G. M. (1998). "A tribute to the late Hans W. Kosterlitz: Ploughing the lone furrow". Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 76 (3): 244–251. PMID 9673787. doi:10.1139/cjpp-76-3-244. 
  4. ^ Hughes, J. (1996). "Hans Kosterlitz (1903–96)". Nature. 384 (6608): 418. PMID 8945465. doi:10.1038/384418a0. 
  5. ^ Hughes, J.; Kosterlitz, H. W.; Smith, T. W. (1997). "The distribution of methionine-enkephalin and leucine-enkephalin in the brain and peripheral tissues. 1978". British Journal of Pharmacology. 120 (4 Suppl): 428–436; discussion 436–7. PMC 3224324Freely accessible. PMID 9142421. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.1997.tb06829.x. 
  6. ^ Henderson, G.; Hughes, J.; Kosterlitz, H. W. (1997). "A new example of a morphine-sensitive neuro-effector junction: Adrenergic transmission in the mouse vas deferens. 1972". British Journal of Pharmacology. 120 (4 Suppl): 396–398; discussion 398–5. PMC 3224316Freely accessible. PMID 9142417. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.1997.tb06821.x.