Born into a poor family in Fukushima Prefecture in 1876, Noguchi Hideyo unfortunately fell on the hearth of his home when he was one year old and suffered severe burns on his left hand, causing all his left fingers to fuse together. His crippled left hand was able to move freely to some extent after an operation by a local surgeon, and this experience might have inspired him to become a doctor. He, thereafter, studied the basic elements of medical science under this surgeon for 3 years, and made a decision to leave for Tokyo to get a medical license. All the money he needed to become a doctor depended on financial support from some benefactors though, he gave up starting practice because of the shortage of the required amount and was obliged to walk the road of basic medical science instead. He made an acquaintance of Shibasaburo Kitazato, a giant figure in the field of bacteriology, and was engaged in snake venom research at the University of Pennsylvania as well as syphilis research at the Rockefeller Institute thanks to Kitazato’s introduction. From this time on, the name of Noguchi gradually became well known throughout the world. When he was 42 years old, he was dispatched to Ecuador, where yellow fever was spreading. He found the cause of yellow fever there, and invented yellow fever vaccine. As this vaccine was very effective, he became a hero there. But this infectious disease was not yellow fever in fact. This was Well’s disease, the symptom of which very much resembles that of yellow fever. Thus, Noguchi’s vaccine was not effective at all in Senegal, where real yellow fever was spreading. He consequently went to Senegal and Ghana to solve this discord. He, however, caught yellow fever and died of it in Ghana. It is said that his last words were “I can’t understand why”. The real cause of yellow fever was a virus, but there were only optical microscopes in his days. It’s impossible to find a virus by optical microscopes. The second photo shows his house where he was born, and the second one is the hearth he fell on.
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