This extraordinary etching by Czech artist, Emma Loewenstamm (1879-1941), depicts the Japanese scientist, Hideyo Noguchi (1876-1928). Its profile viewpoint seems to capture the stoic determination of this single-minded character.
Born into a family of hardworking impoverished farmers, Noguchi overcame the odds to become a recognised figure within the global scientific community. Early in life, a tragic incident caused permanent disfigurement when he fell into a hearth and sustained burns to his left side. This caused considerable anguish until partial reconstructive surgery at the age of 16. The surgery was a pivotal moment as it inspired him to train for a career in medicine.
By 1901, Noguchi was undertaking research at the University of Pennsylvania and a few years later, at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research.
His acclaimed 1909 paper, “Snake Venoms: An Investigation of Venomous Snakes with Special Reference to the Phenomena of Their Venoms” was the result of these early endeavours.
“There is no such thing as genius […] to work three, four, five times harder than anyone else, that is genius.” [Hideyo Noguchi]
Noguchi remained at the Institute for the rest of his life and published over 200 papers on various infectious diseases. He was lauded for his research and delivered thought-provoking lectures to European scientists.
“There is nothing that I fear. I was born into this world to achieve something.” [Hideyo Noguchi]
However, despite being one of the first Japanese scientists to receive worldwide recognition, he also courted controversy. Towards the end of his life, during his extensive research into syphilis, he became infected - leading to paranoia and erratic behaviour. Due to subsequent carelessness, he later contracted yellow fever from a laboratory and died in 1928.
It’s plausible that Noguchi’s ceaseless determination to overcome ultimately led to his demise.
Today, his portrait can be found on the 1,000 yen banknote and he remains a ‘martyr of science’ to many.
The etching is 134/150 and signed in pencil. Another copy is held in the collection at the Met Museum, New York.
Learn more about Emma Loewenstamm in our directory.
Overall size: 19” x 27” / 49cm x 68cm
Year of creation: c. 1922
Condition: Slight mark to mount but overall very presentable.