Rudolf Magnus

Rudolf Magnus, Nobelprijswinnaar
Rudolf Magnus (1873-1927)

In 1908 Utrecht University appointed Rudolf Magnus as professor in the 'science of drugs and pharmacology'. He was the first pharmacologist in the Netherlands and a highly popular figure. In 1925 the Utrecht Student Association serenaded him because he had decided not to return to Heidelberg (Germany), where he had been offered a chair and a superbly equipped laboratory awaited him. The facilities in Utrecht were not as good but notheless sufficient for him to produce his main work Die Körperstellung (1924), about the reflexes that enable mammals to find and maintain their optimal posture. Magnus also studied the pharmacology of the heart and arteries, the effect of drugs on the gastrointestinal tract, the peristalsis of the intestine and the influence of narcotics and poison gas on the lungs. Part of this latter research was carried out in Germany, where he had to serve as an army doctor during the First World War.

Thanks to his formidable international reputation he was able to persuade the Rockefeller Foundation to donate a considerable sum for the construction of a new laboratory. Magnus laid the first stone in 1926 but never actually worked there. He died in 1927, leaving the university in mourning.

The archives of the Nobel committee, which become public after fifty years, show that he was among the nominees in 1926 and in 1927. It was only his unforeseen death that prevented the Prize being granted to him in 1927.

Utrecht University has a research school named after Rudolf Magnus.