The Role of Serendipity in the Forced Migration of Felix Haurowitz (1896–1987): Prague–Istanbul–Bloomington

  • Guel A. Russell Indiana University
Keywords: Acculturation, Czechoslovakia, Felix Michael Haurowitz, Forced Migration, Psycho and Neuroimmunology, Philipp Schwartz, Translocation, Turkey, United States


Out of the estimated 650 émigré scholars and scientists who were dismissed from their academic positions under Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1934, 190 (largely Jewish) emigrated to Turkey, constituting 29 percent of the total. The figures may vary, but they are certainly significant. The circumstances of their arrival pose the greater interest. While individuals were facing insurmountable obstacles in trying to find a safe haven in other countries, such as the United States or the United Kingdom, they were officially invited by the Turkish Republic to take up highly paid contractual university positions. Not only were their travel expenses paid, but also they could bring their families and belongings, as well as laboratory equipment and assistants. Having survived the war years, some chose to remain, some even returned to Germany, but the majority moved to the United States. They left a profound legacy, affecting all aspects of Turkish culture and arts, all disciplines of higher education, medicine, and science, as well as related institutions. Curiously, this unique phenomenon seems to have received very little attention in the English scholarship of the subject or the period until this century. Among this group of translocated émigré physicians and scientists was the eminent biochemist Felix Michael Haurowitz (1896–1987), whose work on antibody formation laid important groundwork for later advances in psychoimmunology and neuroimmunology. Haurowitz was forced to leave Prague upon the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1939. He moved first to a secure academic position at Istanbul University, then to a brilliant scientific career at Indiana University (1948). In this article, the complex effects of translocation on Haurowitz will be explored, with emphasis on the role of serendipity in his career and science. A related question briefly considered is: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions that enable a scientist or physician to successfully continue experimental research despite translocation to an unfamiliar milieu?

Author Biography

Guel A. Russell, Indiana University

Guel A. Russell received her Dr. phil. in History and Philosophy of Science from Indiana University. She had been a long-time research fellow at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine and honorary research fellow at the Centre for Neuroscience of University College London, UK. Since 1990 she is a Full Professor in the Department of Humanities in Medicine at Texas A&M University in the United States. She co-edited (with Frank W. Stahnisch) Forced Migration in the History of 20th Century Neuroscience and Psychiatry — New Perspectives (2017).