Life: September 2, 1883 – August 11, 1957
Why you should know him: Rudolf Weigl was a Polish biologist who not only invented the vaccine for epidemic typhus, but also saved the lives of countless Jews during the Holocaust.
Born in 1883 in Moravia (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Rudolf Weigl later moved to Lwow, Poland (now Lviv, Ukraine), where he completed his training in biology, zoology, and anatomy.
Dr. Weigl's work was in the field of vaccinations. During the 1930s and 1940s, he developed the first successful vaccine for typhus, a disease that ravaged Europe – particularly the ghettos and camps that imprisoned the continent's Jews.
Dr. Weigl's research came to the attention of the Nazis after Poland was captured. The Nazis ordered Dr. Weigl to set up a vaccination production plant. This very Nazi-mandated facility would save many from the Nazis, however, as Dr. Weigl employed many of Poland's Jews and members of the country's underground at his institute. The vaccines also saved many of Poland's Jews, as they were smuggled into the disease-ravaged ghettos of Lviv and Warsaw.
While Dr. Rudolf Weigl died in 1957, Israel honored him for the numerous Jewish lives his actions and his vaccine saved by naming him Righteous Among the Nations in 2003.