In part 3 of 4 on Czechs who changed the world, this week we’re looking at Jan Jansky. His work has saved millions of lives, but that nearly never happened.
Jansky was born in the small town Cernosice, just outside of Prague. After studying in Prague, he worked in a psychiatric clinic, becoming a Professor in 1914.
During World War I, Jansky served on the front line, working as a doctor for two years. Sadly, he suffered a heart attack which prevented him from serving out the rest of the war. It wasn’t the end of his military career though. He actually died while working as a neuropsychiatrist in a military hospital!
In the years before his death, he dedicated his time in the military to finding a link between blood diseases and mental illnesses. He published his findings in a study called “Hematologická studie u psychotiků” (1907, haematological study of psychotics). Although he found no link between diseases of the blood and the brain, he did note in the study how he observed four types of blood. Though, due to the lack of ground-breaking conclusion, his discovery of blood types almost went unnoticed. Instead, the discovery was attributed to Karel Landsteiner. Landsteiner described the existence of blood groups before Jansky, but only identified three groups, not the four groups we know today. Although Landsteiner was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work, the first prize was finally granted to Jansky, whose classification was the correct one for Landsteiner’s work.
Prof. Jan Jansky’s contribution saved millions of lives by insuring they got the right type of blood during a blood transfusion. He also campaigned for people to give blood. His legacy lives on today, as anyone who donates blood regularly in the Czech Republic and Slovakia get a Jan Jansky medal of honour. What a fitting way to honour h is contribution to science 🙂