pinflix yespornplease
Zoeller, Christian

A Community of Rambunctious Scholars Celebrating People
Who Have Made Lifesaving Discoveries And Encouraging
Students and Politicians to Read 1000 Science Stories!

Christian Zoeller

How fast can you count to this #?

We Need Your Help!

Do You Know This Scientist?

If you do, we welcome your input.  Please share your funny stories, brief anecdotes, quotes, and photos of the scientist - as well as your own inspirational opinions.  Personal accounts help bring a scientist alive and create an enduring historical picture.  You can be a part of this exciting history by providing your personal account! 

Please click here to learn more about how to contribute:
Participate as a Friend Scholar

Can You Write or Research?

Help us learn more about this great scientist.  You can be a credited Support Scholar by contributing your knowledge about this scientist and important discovery.  Entries can be as short as a single section and as easy as compiling quotes.  Click here to learn more about becoming a Support Scholar:
Participate as a Support Scholar

Would you like to adopt a scientist?

Endeavor to research all the sections of a scientist. Click here to learn how to be an Expert Scholar.
Participate as an Expert Scholar

Have Historically Significant Photographs?
Participate with Photos

Click here for all the ways you can participate:
Participate to


Has this scientist’s science impacted your life?
Click here to tell your story or to read others’ life changing anecdotes:
Post Your Own Testimonial

Christian Zoeller
(1888 - 1934)
Born in
Year of Discovery: 1926
Tetanus could Finally Be Prevented and Controlled With His Team's Vaccine

Christian Zoeller conducted his research on the tetanus vaccine at the famed Pasteur Institute in Paris, which Louis Pasteur established in 1888. Pasteur's prestige allowed him to gather the most talented scientists from around the world to search for cures to the world's most devastating diseases. Zoeller teamed with French biologist and veterinarian Gaston Ramon to search for a vaccine to fight tetanus. Their efforts led to the production of a vaccine with consistent potency that could be mass-produced, which provided the first effective means of combating tetanus on a widespread basis.

Tetanus is caused by the attack of a neurotoxin (Tetanospasmin) that occurs naturally in the soil. The neurotoxin enters the body through a cut or a puncture wound. It's a spasmodic disease of the skeletal muscles that results in severe bodily contractions. Initial symptoms may include irritability, weakness, muscle cramps, and difficulty swallowing. The facial muscles are next to be involved and the jaw muscles may spasm, resulting in the inability to open one's mouth. This is what gives tetanus the name "lockjaw." The spasms then descend, engulfing the rest of the body. The back arches severely and the spasms may be severe enough to break bones and dislocate joints. The vocal cords and those involved in breathing may also be affected, resulting in death unless immediate medical attention and breathing support are provided. In the United States, because of widespread immunization, there are fewer than 50 cases each year. But tetanus continues to be a problem, especially in developing nations, and there are between 500,000 and one million cases each year worldwide. Tetanus is fatal in about 10 percent of the cases.

Formaldehyde would seem like an unlikely resource in developing a life-saving vaccine. But, that is exactly the critical component Zoeller and Ramon brought to their research. They discovered that by degrading the tetanus toxin with formalin (an aqueous solution of 40 percent formaldehyde) they could produce a stunning result: an antitoxin weakened to the point it would not cause active disease, yet still potent enough to produce an immune response. This was the critical breakthrough. These vaccines are known as "anatoxins," or "toxoids," and continue to be the basis of the tetanus antitoxins produced today. Their work produced a precisely formulated vaccine that allowed for mass production. The tetanus vaccine was widely used during World War II to protect soldiers form tetanus.

Sometimes patience pays off. Zoeller and Ramon continued to study the best use of the tetanus vaccine and found that immunity improved with longer intervals between injections. Antibody levels were higher when injections were given at three weeks instead of at 15 days, and higher still when the second treatment was given at one month. Other scientists later showed that antibody levels were higher still after an interval of several months, and the standard today calls for a booster dose of the tetanus vaccine every ten years.


Introduction  by Tim Anderson


Table of Contents

Links to More Information About the Scientist
Key Insight
Key Experiment or Research
Key Contributors
Quotes by the Scientist
Quotes About the Scientist
Fun Trivia About The Science
The Science Behind the Discovery
Personal Information
Science Discovery Timeline
Recommended Books About the Science
Books by the Scientist
Books About the Scientist
Major Academic Papers
Curriculum Vitae
Links to Science and Related Information on the Subject


Links to More About the Scientist & the Science

The National Academies Press article on Tetanus, referencing Zoeller:

Companion encyclopedia of the history of medicine, by Bynum, referencing Zoeller:

Vaccines, by Plotkin, referencing Zoeller:

Sliders & Images here

Image Flow Here

Key Insight

Key Experiments or Research


Key Contributors
The Team
Explore other scientists who furthered this lifesaving advance.
Lifesavers: Diphtheria and Tetanus Vaccine
Paul Ehrlich
A legend in immunology - Ehrlich developed diphtheria therapy.
Emil von Behring
Originally intent on the priesthood, von Behring developed therapies against diphtheria and tetanus.
Shibasaburo Kitasato
"On loan to Germany," developed first effective therapies against diphtheria and tetanus.
Gaston Ramon
His ingenious techniques allowed diphtheria and tetanus vaccines to be used safely worldwide.

Quotes by the Scientist

Quotes About the Scientist


Fun Trivia About the Science

The Science Behind the Discovery

Personal Information

Scientific Discovery Timeline

Recommended Books About the Science

Books by the Scientist

Books About the Scientist



Major Academic Papers Written by the Scientist

Curriculum Vitae

Links to Information on the Science