Medicine: A Nobel for a Snail Shell

The Nobel Prize in medicine for 1961 was awarded last week to a man who began his lifework as a telephone engineer, has only honorary medical degrees, and can never treat a human patient. The $48,300 winner: Georg von Bėkėsy, 62.

Von Bėkėsy (pronounced Bay-keh-shee) was born in Hungary, and was still there in the 1920s, when he did the fundamental research now belatedly recognized. As a telephone engineer, he concentrated on the human ear and in particular the cochlea, the "snail shell" of the inner ear. For research he built models, bored through the temporal bone of a corpse so that...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!