December 24, 1899–November 1, 1993
BY MACLYN MCCARTY
IN 1924, SOON after he completed his training as an organic chemist, Walther Goebel joined Oswald T. Avery and Michael Heidelberger at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research in their seminal work on the nature of the soluble specific substances of the pneumococcus. Their studies had recently established that these constituents of the capsule of the organism were polysaccharides and provided the first evidence that polysaccharides were capable of inducing the formation of specific antibodies. Over the next 20 years, Goebel made major contributions to the understanding of the basis for serological specificity of polysaccharides and their role in eliciting antibodies that protected against pneumococcal infection.
In the course of World War II, Goebel turned to work on the complex antigens of the dysentery bacilli, with the aim of providing more effective antigens for vaccination against infection with these organisms in the military. His work in this area continued during the postwar period and extended to studies on the bacterial viruses and colicines of these organisms before his retirement in 1970.
Walther Goebel was born in Palo Alto, California, on December 24, 1899, at a time when his father Julius Goebel