572 – Assassination of Alboin, King of the Lombards
Alboin (530s – June 28, 572) was king of the Lombards from about 560 until 572. During his reign the Lombards ended their migrations by settling in Italy, the northern part of which Alboin conquered between 569 and 572. He had a lasting effect on Italy and the Pannonian Basin; in the former his invasion marked the beginning of centuries of Lombard rule, and in the latter his defeat of the Gepids and his departure from Pannonia ended the dominance there of the Germanic peoples.
The period of Alboin’s reign as king in Pannonia following the death of his father, Audoin, was one of confrontation and conflict between the Lombards and their main neighbors, the Gepids. The Gepids initially gained the upper hand, but in 567, thanks to his alliance with the Avars, Alboin inflicted a decisive defeat on his enemies, whose lands the Avars subsequently occupied. The increasing power of his new neighbours caused Alboin some unease however, and he therefore decided to leave Pannonia for Italy, hoping to take advantage of the Byzantine Empire’s reduced ability to defend its territory in the wake of the Gothic War.
After gathering a large coalition of peoples, Alboin crossed the Julian Alps in 568, entering an almost undefended Italy. He rapidly took control of most of Venetia and Liguria. In 569, unopposed, he took northern Italy’s main city, Milan. Pavia offered stiff resistance however, and was taken only after a siege lasting three years. During that time Alboin turned his attention to Tuscany, but signs of factionalism among his supporters and Alboin’s diminishing control over his army increasingly began to manifest themselves.
Alboin was assassinated on June 28, 572, in a coup d’état instigated by the Byzantines. It was organized by the king’s foster brother, Helmichis, with the support of Alboin’s wife, Rosamund, daughter of the Gepid king whom Alboin had killed some years earlier. The coup failed in the face of opposition from a majority of the Lombards, who elected Cleph as Alboin’s successor, forcing Helmichis and Rosamund to flee to Ravenna under imperial protection. Alboin’s death deprived the Lombards of the only leader who could have kept the newborn Germanic entity together, the last in the line of hero-kings who had led the Lombards through their migrations from the vale of the Elbe to Italy. For many centuries following his death Alboin’s heroism and his success in battle were celebrated in Saxon and Bavarian epic poetry.
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1873 – Alexis Carrel, French surgeon and biologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1944)
Alexis Carrel (French: [alɛksi kaʁɛl]; 28 June 1873 – 5 November 1944) was a French surgeon and biologist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1912 for pioneering vascular suturing techniques. He invented the first perfusion pump with Charles A. Lindbergh opening the way to organ transplantation. Like many intellectuals of his time, he promoted eugenics. He was a regent for the French Foundation for the Study of Human Problems during Vichy France which implemented the eugenics policies there; his association with the Foundation and with Jacques Doriot’s ultra-nationalist Parti Populaire Français led to investigations of collaborating with the Nazis, but he died before any trial could be held. He faced media attacks towards the end of his life over his alleged involvement with the Nazis.
A Nobel Prize laureate in 1912, Alexis Carrel was also elected twice, in 1924 and 1927, as an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.
Born in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, Rhône, Carrel was raised in a devout Catholic family and was educated by Jesuits, though he had become an agnostic by the time he became a university student. He was a pioneer in transplantology and thoracic surgery. Alexis Carrel was also a member of learned societies in the U.S., Spain, Russia, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Vatican City, Germany, Italy and Greece and received honorary doctorates from Queen’s University of Belfast, Princeton University, California, New York, Brown University and Columbia University.
In 1902, he was claimed to have witnessed the miraculous cure of Marie Bailly at Lourdes, made famous in part because she named Carrel as a witness of her cure. After the notoriety surrounding the event, Carrel could not obtain a hospital appointment because of the pervasive anticlericalism in the French university system at the time. In 1903 he emigrated to Montreal, Canada, but soon relocated to Chicago, Illinois to work for Hull Laboratory. While there he collaborated with American physician Charles Claude Guthrie in work on vascular suture and the transplantation of blood vessels and organs as well as the head, and Carrel was awarded the 1912 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for these efforts.
In 1906 he joined the newly formed Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research in New York where he spent the rest of his career. There he did significant work on tissue cultures with pathologist Montrose Thomas Burrows. In the 1930s, Carrel and Charles Lindbergh became close friends not only because of the years they worked together but also because they shared personal, political, and social views. Lindbergh initially sought out Carrel to see if his sister-in-law’s heart, damaged by rheumatic fever, could be repaired. When Lindbergh saw the crudeness of Carrel’s machinery, he offered to build new equipment for the scientist. Eventually they built the first perfusion pump, an invention instrumental to the development of organ transplantation and open heart surgery. Lindbergh considered Carrel his closest friend, and said he would preserve and promote Carrel’s ideals after his death.
Due to his close proximity with Jacques Doriot’s fascist Parti Populaire Français (PPF) during the 1930s and his role in implementing eugenics policies during Vichy France, he was accused after the Liberation of collaboration, but died before the trial.
In his later life he returned to his Catholic roots. In 1939 he met with Trappist monk Alexis Presse on a recommendation. Although Carrel was skeptical about meeting with a priest, Presse ended up having a profound influence on the rest of Carrel’s life. In 1942, he said “I believe in the existence of God, in the immortality of the soul, in Revelation and in all the Catholic Church teaches.” He summoned Presse to administer the Catholic Sacraments on his death bed in November 1944.
For much of his life, Carrel and his wife spent their summers on the Ile Saint-Gildas, which they owned. After he and Lindbergh became close friends, Carrel persuaded him to also buy a neighboring island, the Ile Illiec, where the Lindberghs often resided in the late 1930s.
Contributions to science
Carrel was a young surgeon in 1894 when the French president Sadi Carnot was assassinated with a knife. His large abdominal veins had been severed, and surgeons who treated the president felt that such veins were too large to be successfully reconnected. This left a deep impression on Carrel, and he set about developing new techniques for suturing blood vessels. The technique of “triangulation”, which was inspired by sewing lessons he took from an embroideress, is still used today. Julius Comroe wrote: “Between 1901 and 1910, Alexis Carrel, using experimental animals, performed every feat and developed every technique known to vascular surgery today.” He had great success in reconnecting arteries and veins, and performing surgical grafts, and this led to his Nobel Prize in 1912.
During World War I (1914–1918), Carrel and the English chemist Henry Drysdale Dakin developed the Carrel–Dakin method of treating wounds based on chlorine (Dakin’s solution) which, preceding the development of antibiotics, was a major medical advance in the care of traumatic wounds. For this, Carrel was awarded the Légion d’honneur.
Carrel co-authored a book with famed pilot Charles A. Lindbergh, The Culture of Organs, and worked with Lindbergh in the mid-1930s to create the “perfusion pump,” which allowed living organs to exist outside the body during surgery. The advance is said to have been a crucial step in the development of open-heart surgery and organ transplants, and to have laid the groundwork for the artificial heart, which became a reality decades later. Some critics of Lindbergh claimed that Carrel overstated Lindbergh’s role to gain media attention, but other sources say Lindbergh played an important role in developing the device. Both Lindbergh and Carrel appeared on the cover of Time magazine on June 13, 1938.
Carrel was also interested in the phenomenon of senescence, or aging. He claimed that all cells continued to grow indefinitely, and this became a dominant view in the early 20th century. Carrel started an experiment on January 17, 1912, where he placed tissue cultured from an embryonic chicken heart in a stoppered Pyrex flask of his own design. He maintained the living culture for over 20 years with regular supplies of nutrient. This was longer than a chicken’s normal lifespan. The experiment, which was conducted at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, attracted considerable popular and scientific attention.
Carrel’s experiment by some was never successfully replicated, and in the 1960s Leonard Hayflick and Paul Moorhead proposed that differentiated cells can undergo only a limited number of divisions before dying. This is known as the Hayflick limit, and is now a pillar of biology.
L. Hayflick has shown that a cell has a limited number of divisions, equal to the so called “Hayflick’s Limit.” However, L. Franks and others (Loo et al. 1987; Nooden and Tompson 1995; Frolkis 1988a), have shown that the number of cell divisions can be considerably greater than that stipulated by the “Hayflick Limit”, having practically no limit at all.
It is not certain how Carrel obtained his anomalous results. Leonard Hayflick suggests that the daily feeding of nutrient was continually introducing new living cells to the alleged immortal culture. J. A. Witkowski has argued that, while “immortal” strains of visibly mutated cells have been obtained by other experimenters, a more likely explanation is deliberate introduction of new cells into the culture, possibly without Carrel’s knowledge.
In 1972, the Swedish Post Office honored Carrel with a stamp that was part of its Nobel stamp series. In 1979, the lunar crater Carrel was named after him as a tribute to his scientific breakthroughs.
In February 2002, as part of celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s birth, the Medical University of South Carolina at Charleston established the Lindbergh-Carrel Prize, given to major contributors to “development of perfusion and bioreactor technologies for organ preservation and growth”. Michael DeBakey and nine other scientists received the prize, a bronze statuette  created for the event by the Italian artist C. Zoli and named “Elisabeth” after Elisabeth Morrow, sister of Lindbergh’s wife Anne Morrow, who died from heart disease. It was in fact Lindbergh’s disappointment that contemporary medical technology could not provide an artificial heart pump which would allow for heart surgery on her that led to Lindbergh’s first contact with Carrel.
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