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10 Hispanic Scientists You Should Know


9
Bernardo Alberto Houssay (1887-1971)
Houssay's fascination with the pituitary gland and its direction of insulin had big ramifications for the chronic disease diabetes. Houssay is second from the left in this picture from 1947. © Bettmann/Corbis
Houssay's fascination with the pituitary gland and its direction of insulin had big ramifications for the chronic disease diabetes. Houssay is second from the left in this picture from 1947. © Bettmann/Corbis

We're all painfully aware of how growth, sexual maturity and metabolism kick into overdrive during puberty, but we're usually too distracted to consider the tiny bean-shaped gland with its foot on the throttle. Bernardo Alberto Houssay was barely out of puberty himself when he began researching the pituitary gland, but then he was always a bit of a prodigy: The intelligence that helped him stand out from his seven siblings had previously earned him a spot in pharmacy school at age 14.

Houssay's research into the relationship between sugar metabolism and a pituitary hormone earned him the 1947 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine and, more importantly, marked a turning point in diabetes management. He shared the prize with Carl Cori and Gerty Cori (née Radnitz), pioneers in understanding the catalytic conversion of glycogen [sources: Magill; Nobel Prize; USASEF].

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Houssay performed research in circulation, respiration, immunity, the nervous system, digestion and the treatment of insect and snake bites. Although he was among the 150 educators sacked during Gen. Juan Perón's 1943 military coup, he became one of the most influential physician-scientists of 20th-century Latin America. His impact was felt through his extensive papers, his widely published textbook, "Human Physiology," and his organization of the Institute of Physiology at the University of Buenos Aires, which produced such medical luminaries as Luis Leloir and César Milstein, both on this list [sources: Magill; Houssay; USASEF].