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Robert Bárány

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Robert Bárány
Born(1876-04-22)22 April 1876
Died8 April 1936(1936-04-08) (aged 59)
Uppsala, Sweden
NationalityAustro-Hungarian (1876–1919)
Swedish (1919–1936)
Alma materUniversity of Vienna (MD)
AwardsNobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1914)
Scientific career
InstitutionsUppsala University
Doctoral studentsGösta Dohlman

Robert Bárány (Hungarian: Bárány Róbert, pronounced [ˈbaːraːɲ ˈroːbɛrt]; 22 April 1876 – 8 April 1936) was an Austro-Hungarian otologist.[1] He received the 1914 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on the physiology and pathology of the vestibular apparatus.[2]

Life and career


Bárány was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary. He was the eldest of six children of Maria (née Hock), the daughter of a scientist, and Ignác Bárány, born 1842 in Várpalota, Kingdom of Hungary, who was a bank official and estate manager.[3] His father was a Hungarian Jew whose father also was named Ignác Bárány (Bárány Ignác).

He attended medical school at Vienna University, graduating in 1900. As a doctor in Vienna, Bárány was syringing fluid into the external auditory canal of a patient to relieve the patient's dizzy spells. The patient experienced vertigo and nystagmus (involuntary eye movement) when Bárány injected fluid that was too cold. In response, Bárány warmed the fluid for the patient and the patient experienced nystagmus in the opposite direction. Bárány theorized that the endolymph was sinking when it was cool and rising when it was warm, and thus the direction of flow of the endolymph was providing the proprioceptive signal to the vestibular organ. He followed up on this observation with a series of experiments on what he called the caloric reaction. The research resulting from his observations made surgical treatment of vestibular organ diseases possible. Bárány also investigated other aspects of equilibrium control, including the function of the cerebellum. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo is said to have been first described in medical texts by Bárány.[4]

He served in the Austro-Hungarian Army during World War I as a civilian surgeon and was captured by the Imperial Russian Army. When his Nobel Prize was awarded in 1914, Bárány was in a Russian prisoner of war camp. Bárány was released from the prisoner of war camp in 1916 following joint diplomatic efforts from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and The Netherlands and alongside Red Cross.[5] That work was largely driven by the professor of otorhinolaryngology, Gunnar Holmgren,[6] with diplomatic contributions by prince Carl. Bárány was then able to attend the Nobel Prize awards ceremony in 1916, where he was awarded his prize. Virtually as soon as he was awarded the Nobel Prize, in January 1917, he, with the automatic qualification for making such proposals that comes with being a Prize Winner, proposed to the Nobel Committee in Physiology or Medicine that Sigmund Freud should be awarded the Prize.[7] Freud was annoyed both by Bárány's winning and nominating. In response to his receiving the prize, Sigmund Freud wrote : "The granting of the Nobel Prize to Bárány, whom I refused to take as a pupil some years ago because he seemed to be too abnormal, has aroused sad thoughts about how helpless an individual is about gaining the respect of the crowd."[8] "You know it is only the money that would matter to me, and perhaps the spice of annoying some of my compatriots. But it would be ridiculous to expect a sign of recognition when one has seven-eights of the world against one."[9]

From 1917 until his death, Bárány was professor at Uppsala University Faculty of Medicine. He died shortly before his sixtieth birthday in Uppsala. He was the father of physician and Swedish Royal Academy of Sciences member Ernst Bárány (1910–1991) and grandfather of physicist Anders Bárány, former secretary of the Nobel Committee for Physics. On 9 March 1909, he married Ida Felicitas Berger, born 12 December 1881.[10] He learned Esperanto some time before 1916.[11]

See also



  1. ^ Robert Bárány. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. ^ Eastern Europe: an introduction to the people, lands, and culture Volume 1, p. 394, Richard C. Frucht – 2005 " Hungarian or Hungarian-Born Winners of the Nobel Prize The physicist Fülöp Lénárd was the recipient of the Nobel Prize in 1905 for his work on cathode rays. Róbert Bárány received the 1914 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine "
  3. ^ Visual Education Corporation (1987). Nobel prize winners: an H.W. Wilson biographical dictionary. H.W. Wilson. ISBN 978-0-8242-0756-4.
  4. ^ Huppert, Doreen; Brandt, Thomas (12 March 2018). "Dizziness and vertigo syndromes viewed with a historical eye". Journal of Neurology. 265 (S1): 127–133. doi:10.1007/s00415-018-8807-x. PMID 29532288. S2CID 1303893.
  5. ^ Schmiegelow, Ernst, ed. (1947). Spredte Erindringer Fra Et Langt liv. H. HAGERUP. p. 205.
  6. ^ N Gunnar Holmgren, Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (article by Carl-Axel Hamberger)
  7. ^ Carl-Magnus Stolt (2002) "Why did Freud never receive the Nobel Prize?" in: Elisabeth Crawford (ed.) Historical Studies in the Nobel Archives. The Prizes in Science and Medicine, Uppsala: Universal Academy Press. pp. 95–106
  8. ^ Jones, Ernest, ed. (1961). "23: The War Years". The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. Basic Books. p. 347.
  9. ^ Feldman Burton, "The Nobel Prize: A History of Genius, Controversy, and Prestige". p. 283
  10. ^ Robert Barany en Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (artikolo de Gunnar Holmgren)
  11. ^ La Espero, May 1916, p. 1


  • Nobel Lectures, Physiology or Medicine 1901–1921. Amsterdam: Elsevier Publishing Company. 1967.
  • Robert Bárány on Nobelprize.org Edit this at Wikidata including the Nobel Lecture on September 11, 1916 Some New Methods for Functional Testing of the Vestibular Apparatus and the Cerebellum