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Lina Stern

Lina Stern

BornAugust 26, 1878
Liepāja, Latvia
DiedMarch 7, 1968
Citizenship USSR
Fieldblood-brain barrier, biochemistry, neuroscience
InstitutionsMoscow 2nd Medical Institute, Institute of Physiology, Biophysics Institute
Alma materUniversity of Geneva
Known forThe first female professor at the University of Geneva, the first female member of the USSR Academy of Sciences

Lina Stern (Latvian: Līna Šterna; Russian: Лина Соломоновна Штерн) (August 26, 1878-March 7, 1968) was a notable biochemist, physiologist and humanist whose medical discoveries saved thousands of lives at the fronts of World War II. She is best known for her pioneering work on blood-brain barrier, which she described as hemato-encephalic barrier in 1921.[1]


Life and career

Born in Liepāja (today's Latvia) into a Jewish family and educated in Geneva, Switzerland, she pursued a brilliant academic career and performed original research in biochemistry and in the neurosciences. From 1918 onwards she was the first woman awarded professional rank at the University of Geneva, being a Professor of chemio-physiology, and researching cellular oxidation.[1]

In 1925 she had emigrated to the Soviet Union out of ideological convictions.[1] In 1925-1948 she served as Professor of the 2nd Medical Institute and in 1929-1948 — the Director of Institute of Physiology of the USSR Academy of Sciences. Among many problems Stern and her scientific group worked on were longevity and sleep. Under her leadership multidisciplinary groups of colleagues worked on the problems of the hemato-encephalic and histohematic barriers. The results of this work were later implemented in clinical practice and saved thousands of lives at the fronts of World War II. In 1939 she became the first female full member of the Academy. In 1943 she won the Stalin Prize.

Activism and persecutions

A member of the Women's Anti-Fascist Committee and the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee (JAC) since 1942, Stern was the sole survivor out of fifteen arrested (one person died in prison, thirteen were executed) when the JAC was eradicated by Stalin in January 1949. She was sentenced to a prison term, followed by five-year exile to Dzhambul (current Taraz), Kazakhstan.

After rehabilitation

After Stalin's death in 1953 Lina Stern was allowed to return to Moscow and in 1954-1968 she headed the Department of Physiology at Biophysics Institute.


  1. ^ a b c Lina Stern: Science and fate by A.A. Vein. Department of Neurology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands

See also

  • Gulag

Further reading

  • Stalin's Secret Pogrom: The Postwar Inquisition of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee by Joshua Rubenstein. ISBN 0-300-08486-2
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Lina_Stern". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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