Hans Kosterlitz

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Hans Kosterlitz
Born (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)

Hans Walter Kosterlitz FRS[1](27 April 1903 – 26 October 1996) was a German-born British biologist, who graduated Doctor of Medicine (Dr. med) in Berlin. He emigrated to Scotland in 1934, after the takeover of the Nazi Party in Germany. He joined the staff of Aberdeen University in the same year where he later served as professor of pharmacology and chemistry from 1968 until 1973 when he became director of the university's drug addiction research unit.[2][3]

Kosterlitz is best known for his work on endorphins.[4][5] He performed a famous experiment that he envisioned in a dream while sleeping. He stimulated a strip of guinea pig intestine electrically and was able to record the 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 tissue (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 Snyder in 1978 for his work in the discovery of the opiate receptors and their natural ligands. The University of Aberdeen officially opened its new Kosterlitz Centre on 16 September 2010 in memory of Professor Hans Kosterlitz, who joined the University in 1933.

Hans Kosterlitz was the brother of the film director Henry Koster, born Hermann Kosterlitz. He was married, since 1937, to Hannah Gresshorner. Their son, J. Michael, is Professor of Physics at Brown University.


  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. ^ 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. doi:10.1139/cjpp-76-3-244. PMID 9673787. 
  3. ^ Hughes, J. (1996). "Hans Kosterlitz (1903–96)". Nature. 384 (6608): 418. doi:10.1038/384418a0. PMID 8945465. 
  4. ^ 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. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.1997.tb06829.x. PMC 3224324free to read. PMID 9142421. 
  5. ^ 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. doi:10.1111/j.1476-5381.1997.tb06821.x. PMC 3224316free to read. PMID 9142417.